As disrespectful as it might sound, the Sunday after Easter Day, Easter 2, is called Low Sunday in the Protestant/Catholic Church. In the Roman calendar, the date is April 7, 2013. Justification for this title is fairly obvious. From the perspective of music in the worship service, Easter 2 almost always has fewer singers, no extra instruments, less spectacular music, and musicians who are exhausted physically and mentally from preparing music for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday.
With this in mind, are church musicians given a “free pass” on this day to pull an anthem out of the choral library only because it is easily performed and may or may not relate to scripture readings of the day? Let’s agree the answer is no, but can we find music appropriate for the day that makes fewer demands on the performers and does not give the congregation such a “let down”? This answer is yes, and success in achieving this goal can easily be attained by using the eLibrary of the Church Music Institute.
If you are a CMI member, this article is for you, and is intended to make your anthem search for Low Sunday easy and productive.
To search for an anthem by liturgical reference, enter the liturgical day and year. Our liturgical year is C, so enter in the search box “Easter 2, C” to find a list of anthems appropriate for the day. I found 151 anthem titles. To narrow results, you can restrict your search by adding another search term, such as level of difficulty: “Easter 2, C” easy. This gave me 51 results.
Another method of searching for anthems is to enter scripture passages for readings of the day. You will find these readings in an index for worship planning or lectionary readings. CMI provides a list of lectionary readings for you to use on our website: on the home page, click on Resources. Click on Useful Links, then scroll down to Lectionary Readings and select the source you wish to use.
Choosing the psalm and gospel readings for the day as examples, I will show you how to find anthems that match scriptures. The psalm reading is Psalm 118:1-2, 14-29 (the Lord is my strength and my song, vs. 14). I entered “Psalm 118:” and got 81 results. If I restrict my search to “Psalm 118:14-29” I get 2 results. Remember, the program is reading only the total number of scriptures with the exact Psalm 118:14-29 range, not individual passages or other verse combinations within the passage entered.
From the anthems listed, I recommend three easy ones appropriate for the day:
Jan Sanborn, Christ is Risen, SATB, Fred Bock Publishing
Austin C. Lovelace, Lift High the Triumph Song, 2-part Mixed, tune: Vreuchten
Noble Cain, All Glory, Laud, and Honor SATB, Harold Flammer (YES – great Easter anthem, not only Palm/Passion Sunday)
The gospel reading is John 20:19-31 (Beholding the wounds of the risen Christ). I entered “John 20:” and got 112 results. I refined my search to “John 20:19-31” and got 8 results. Entering “John 20:” easy, I got 42 titles. From these easy anthems, I recommend the following:
John Ferguson, That Easter Day with Joy was Bright, Unison-2-part mixed (tune: Puer Nobis Nascitur)
Paul Sjolund, O Sons and Daughters of the King, SATB, (tune: O Fili et Filiae), Hinshaw
James R. Rogers, O Sons and Daughters, Let Us Sing, SATB, a cappella (can be sung in 3 parts), MorningStar Publishers (see the PDF in our eLibrary)
Jane Marshall, Spirit of Life, SATB, H.W. Gray
Other recommended anthems appropriate for Easter 2 are:
Hal Hopson, Concertato on We Know that Christ is Raised, SATB, tune: Engleberg, optional brass, handbells, timpani, congregation
Austin C. Lovelace, Celebrate the Risen Christ, SATB, Hope Publishing
Robert J. Powell, Easter Antiphon, 2-part mixed, Augsburg
Bob Chilcott, Jesus, Springing, SATB, Oxford Publishing
Space does not permit a discussion of these anthems. All are within the performance level of moderate choirs, textually and musically appropriate to the day, positive and stirring. Sanborn’s Christ is Risen and Cain’s All Glory, Laud, and Honor have been around a long time and are still available for purchase. Sanborn’s anthem is one of my all-time favorite Easter anthems that can be used by smaller ensembles. The anthems by Rogers and Chilcott are more recently composed.
If you don’t have any of these anthems in your choral library, consider purchasing one or more. In your own library, look for anthems that use the same or similar titles by other composers and think about their use for your worship.
This selection of anthems does not suggest that every choir should use only easy anthems on Easter 2! Not at all! Every choir should always sing to its level of ability. “To whom much is given, much is required.” It might be a great idea to challenge your choir on Easter 2 with a new anthem that matches the level of the anthem done on Easter Day.
If you are still reading this tutorial, you have been very patient. I have written in detail to assist in searching anthems in our library. As a CMI member, this is your library to use, and it needs to be of maximum benefit to you. Not only are you on your way to making the worship of Low Sunday more unified and interesting through the use of your choice of music, but also this practice will work for every Sunday of the church year. Choosing appropriate anthems for services can be stimulating, interesting, demanding, and infectious – all good things.
Robert C. Mann
Director, Resource Library