Hail Thee, Festival Day!

The Second Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018

In the Episcopal Church, Easter isn't a day - it's a season. The Great Fifty Days of Easter continue through the Day of Pentecost. The season is marked by festive music and joyful worship. "Alleluias" have returned and appear throughout the liturgy from the opening acclamation to the dismissal. The Paschal candle burns brightly throughout the season.

The season is set apart through our service music which is used throughout the Great Fifty Days. We sing the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) and Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy) from the festive mass setting by William Mathias. Instead of a sequence hymn, we sing an Alleluia before the reading of the gospel. In this ancient tradition, the choir sings a verse related to the specific gospel lesson for each Sunday, and the congregation frames that verse with joyful alleluias before and after. The Fraction Anthem (sung at the breaking of the bread) specifically refers to the resurrected Jesus: "The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread." The alleluias sung or spoken in the dismissal are only allowed during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. This gives us one final reminder to keep the Easter feast as we go forth into the world.

During the Easter season, we will sing many of the hymns in the Easter section of The Hymnal 1982, as well as other hymns that focus on themes of resurrection and new life in Christ. Our entrance hymn this morning is an Anglican classic, "Hail thee, festival day." The composer of the tune (Salve festa dies) is Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the leaders in English church music in the 20th century. As editor of The English Hymnal of 1906, he included both English folk tunes and his own original compositions, many of which have become standard repertoire for Episcopal churches. The hymn features a rousing refrain that repeats after each stanza. Two distinctive elements of this hymn are the use of contrasting tunes for the odd and even numbers verses and the different sets of lyrics for Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. 

Watch a video of the hymn here: Hail thee, festival day

This hymn is so popular that there is even a comical parody of it:
Image result for hail thee festival day

Enjoy exploring the variety of joyful music in worship throughout this Easter season. Alleluia, Christ is risen!

Music for The Second Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018

Hymns: 175, 193 (stanza 5), 206, 209, 180
Service Music: S-278, WLP* 848, S-128, WLP* 877
Psalm 133, A Hymntune Psalter
Organ Music:
Victimae paschali laudes     -setting by Wilbur Held
Alleluias     -Robert Lau
The Strife is O'er (Victory)     -Wilbur Held

*from Wonder, Love, and Praise, an authorized supplement to The Hymnal 1982


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