Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing their new Holy Week cantata, When Darkness Comes. Lee and Susan are the authors of over 400 choral anthems, cantatas and vocal and piano solo collections that are used worldwide. They have served as music leaders in churches, and have taught music on the elementary, high school and college levels. Both are professional singers and have performed in recitals, operas, oratorios and musicals. They reside in Goshen, Indiana.
Lee Dengler & Susan Naus Dengler
Easter was in mid-April that year. We who work in church music are relieved when Easter comes that late in the season, allowing adequate time to prepare for the music of Lent and Easter.
However, there was a lot going on in our house back then. We were awaiting the birth of our second child. The due date was April 1. Because of church responsibilities, we hoped that this baby would arrive on time. Rebecca Joy only made us wait two extra days before she appeared on the scene. Even though Palm Sunday was only two days later, we could fulfill our Holy Week responsibilities without too much stress.
Just 30 or 40 years ago, the Tenebrae service was foreign to many a church, despite the service’s ancient roots. The Roman Catholic Church embraced it early, but it has only become popular and more regularly practiced in Mainline Protestant churches (and even some traditional evangelical churches) in recent decades.
These “services of darkness,” as they are often called, have become a “bright spot,” one could say, for churches around the world that are looking for fresh and creative ways to impart the Holy Week journey.
Sacred music publishers have responded to the heightened awareness of Tenebrae with a variety of publications that are ready to prepare and present as complete Tenebrae services with appropriate music and narration.
Tenebrae is a special service for Holy Week that can be conducted on Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, or any day of Holy Week when a church has a regular or additional special service.
The name “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin for “shadows” or “darkness,” and denotes a service of shadows. The Tenebrae service makes use of gradually diminishing light as candles are extinguished one-by-one to guide the congregation through the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’s burial. more “Dark Is the New Bright”…
Iconic imagery of the Easter story is paired with a beautiful melodic figure that weaves throughout the entire work to help present and guide the audience through this work. The music by Pepper Choplin, accompanied by Michael Lawrence’s stunning orchestration, powerfully represents the high and low moments of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Additional choruses and hymns illumine the journey, including the haunting “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” the spine-tingling “Judas,” the mournful “Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs,” the transportive “You Will Be with Me in Paradise,” and the majestically triumphant “Every Knee Should Bow.”