Category Archives: Easter

Holy Week: Palm Sunday to Easter Day

PALM SUNDAY – 14th April

On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus entering Jerusalem to be greeted by the crowds. We gather at the Cricket Pavilion at 9.15 am to hear the story and then, carrying palms and singing hymns, we make our joyful procession to St Mary’s for our Parish Eucharist, which this year includes a dramatic reading of the Passion story led by members of the congregation.

6.30 pm – The Way of the Cross’, a powerful service with choir anthems, hymns, readings and prayers for the start of Holy Week.

MONDAY, TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK 15th, 16th & 17th April, 8.00pm

Each evening we gather to share the Eucharist, a lovely quiet and reflective service ‘in the round’ in the Chancel area of the church. Each night, Will offers a devotional address to help us enter more deeply into the meaning and events of the last days of Jesus’ life.


8.00 pm           THE LORD’S SUPPER with FOOT WASHING

Our evening service recalls the events of the Last Supper, the washing of feet and Jesus’ gift to us of the Eucharist. It starts with joy; but over it lies the shadow of the Cross, the Agony of Gethsemane and the torment of Good Friday. What begins as an occasion of rejoicing and thanksgiving ends on a different note in this extraordinarily powerful service. The Stripping of the Altars, the removal of all ornaments from the Sanctuary, the exit of choir, ministers and congregation in silence, all symbolise Christ’s isolation and loneliness.

Before that, however, there is the solemn procession to the Altar of Repose, symbolising the walk of Jesus and his disciples from the Upper Room out to the Garden of Gethsemane.

On arrival at the Altar of Repose the sacrament is placed on the Altar surrounded by flowers, reminding us of Gethsemane where Christ in his Sacrament waits; and we watch and pray with him in a vigil up until midnight…

9.00 pm           THE VIGIL OF GETHSEMANE until midnight, concluding with

11.50 pm         COMPLINE

GOOD FRIDAY – 19th April

10.00 am         ALL AGE SERVICE

Our All Age Service is suitable for everyone. We gather to offer our songs, prayers and readings as we remember the events of the first Good Friday and Jesus going to the Cross to die for us.

The Easter Garden – decorated by our Friday morning Teddy Tots – will be on display for the first time after the service and then we make our way to the Transept for Hot Cross buns and other refreshments.

11.30 am         WALK OF WITNESS from St John Fisher RC Church to the Common

We gather outside St John Fisher Roman Catholic Church on Dunstable Road to begin a Walk of Witness shared with Christians from all the different churches in Redbourn. At various points we stop to hear another part of the last hours of Jesus’ life, to pray and to offer a hymn as we celebrate our shared faith in Christ. All are welcome – young and old – as we walk and witness together.

1.30 pm           GOOD FRIDAY LITURGY with COMMUNION

A stark, solemn and incredibly moving service offered at St Mary’s at the very time when we recall Jesus hanging on the Cross. The service includes a reading of the Passion story, the veneration of the Cross, a powerful Litany of prayers and an opportunity to receive Christ’s body and blood in the sharing of Communion with him in his death for each and every one of us.

EASTER DAY – 21st April

6.00 am           DAWN VIGIL followed by PARISH BREAKFAST, leading into


10.00 am         ALL AGE EUCHARIST followed by Easter Egg Hunt

12 noon           HOLY COMMUNION

6.30 pm           FESTAL EVENSONG for EASTER with St Mary’s Choir

Our Easter celebrations start at dawn with the Vigil of Readings, as we hear again the story of our salvation, fill the church with the new light of Easter, finishing with a splendid cooked breakfast. Our services continue with 8.00am, 10.00am (All Age) and 12 noon celebrations and we round of the day with a splendid Choral Evensong led by our choir.


Monday 22nd April

On Easter Monday we join in the traditional Easter Pilgrimage to St Albans Abbey to join with thousands of others from around the Diocese.

We meet at 10.15 am for breakfast in the Transept, then set off at 11.00am and make the gentle walk along the River Ver to St Albans where we share a picnic lunch on the Abbey Orchard (bring your own) and then join in the joyful All Age Service at 3.00pm. Please sign up in church if you’re coming so we know how many to expect. Dogs welcome!

Easter Monday Pilgrimage: Monday 2nd April

On Easter Monday (2nd April) we join in the traditional Easter Pilgrimage to St Albans Abbey to join with thousands of others from around the Diocese.  Find out more on the Easter Monday Pilgrimage website or Facebook.

We meet at 10.15am for breakfast in the Transept, then set off at 11.00am and make the gentle walk along the River Ver to St Albans where we share a picnic lunch on the Abbey Orchard (bring your own) and then join in the joyful All Age Service at 3.00pm.

Please sign up in church or let Tim know if you’re coming so we know how many to expect.  Bring stout footwear, suitable clothing, drinks and a packed lunch.  Dogs welcome!

NB. It will happen whatever the weather!


Choral Evensong Blog: Easter Day, Sunday 1st April, 6.30pm

Firstly a follow-up to my comments on Responses for February’s choral evensong. I found myself singing tenor in the Byrd for the March service and was surprised to find that, after the creed, the tenor part follows Merbecke’s plainsong line, as it does in Tallis and Morley. The Byrd, then, is not newly composed throughout. But William Smith’s is, and it is his setting that we sing on Easter Day. Smith (1603-1645) was attached to the cathedral in Durham for most of his life, as choirboy, minor canon and precentor, and the elaborate nature of these responses may have some connection with a feud at Durham in the 1620s between two of the prebendaries, John (later bishop) Cosin and Peter Smart. Cosin’s position on music can be construed from Smart’s attack on him: “…you have so changed the whole liturgy, that though it be not in Latin, yet by reason of the confusedness of voices of so many singers, with a multitude of melodious instruments … the greatest part of the service is no better understood, than if it were in Hebrew or in Irish…”(Grove’s Dictionary) It seems that Smith sided with Cosin. The revival of Smith’s responses has largely been the inspiration for the multitude of 20th century settings, after being almost completely neglected by composers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

When I saw that Stanford in C had been selected for Easter Day choral evensong, I thought that it was a good and obvious choice. Stanford is the go-to man for celebratory settings. I then wondered whether this view was out of line with current thinking in cathedrals. So I trawled through the websites of the 44 members of the Association of English Cathedrals to see what they were singing at Easter evensong. (What is a cathedral is questionable at the edges, for example Westminster Abbey and St George’s Windsor, but this was a comprehensive list to start with.)   Half of them at the time of writing, 12 March, had not published their music lists for 1 April, so I am having to make do with just 22 results at the moment. So far, no Stanford in C, but five of the 22 are singing Stanford in A, and only three other settings come up more than once: two each for Howells’ St Paul’s Service and the D major services of Dyson and Wood. Howells is represented by three additional settings and Wood by two, so, at what we might call half-time, the score is Stanford and Howells 5, Wood 4, Dyson 2 and six others 1. Historically, there is some evidence that Stanford quickly established himself as a festive composer. I have been looking at some old music lists for Christ Church Oxford. In five of the seven years that I have looked at between 1883 and 1964, Stanford in B flat or in C was sung at Easter evensong. In 1883, only four years after it was written, Stanford in B flat was sung 12 times at Christ Church.

So what about the music? Stanford in C is a great piece and the opening of the Gloria with antiphonal unaccompanied choir and thunderous organ is a masterstroke. But we should do Stanford in A sometime.

Percy Whitlock

The anthem is ‘He is risen’ by Percy Whitlock, who has come up in this column on a number of occasions. The publication date of 1932 suggests that it was written while he was director of music at St Stephen’s, Bournemouth and it is written in a style that makes it eminently suitable for parish choirs. It uses straightforward harmony but has enough counterpoint to keep the interest. There are three verses, with the third verse an altered version of the music for the first. The words come from a poem by Mrs CF Alexander. It is included in some hymn books, Common Praise apparently, but the words come in various forms, most notably with He replaced by Christ, so that the opening line is ‘Christ is risen’.

The voluntary is JS Bach’s Fugue in G major BWV577. Its nickname, the Gigue Fugue, comes from the 12/8 time signature, and it rattles along at quite a pace. I remember a television series featuring the virtuoso American organist Carlo Curley, who incidentally made his home here in England until his untimely death in 2012. In the 1970s he was resident organist at the Alexandra Palace and, because of his size and showmanship, he became known as “the Pavarotti of the organ”. The final piece in one particular programme was the Gigue Fugue, and as he got on to the organ stool, he said – and you have to hear this in his native North Carolina accent – “Watch my size 12s dance!” The organist’s feet have to move as quickly as the hands and it’s quite a challenge, but a wonderful way to end the service on this special day.

Damian Cranmer