Easter Break – Everyone is Invited

Easter Break – Everyone is Invited April 13, 2017

Atheists can celebrate Easter too.

It could be a few days of school vacation,  a chocolate bunny or some colored eggs.  I celebrate by attending the beautiful Good Friday service at the National Cathedral, where I watch the afternoon sun moving across the stain glass windows while listening to the best church music performed by the best musicians, especially the incredibly beautiful and wrenching Miserere by Gregorio Allegri.

As the story goes, the music was considered too beautiful to be sung anywhere but inside the Vatican.  That changed when Mozart attended a Vatican Good Friday service and later transcribed the music based simply on his memory of it.  Here it is for everyone to enjoy.  Listen for those extra, unexpected high notes.

The boy soprano, Aksel Rykkvin, is incredible. Watch his expression when he goes for the high C!

If, like me, you love hearing this kind of music in the “proper” environment of a Cathedral, check out this link to another version, performed by the King’s College Choir in Cambridge.

My favorite Easter hymn is not one you’re likely to hear in church. It’s titled “Regina Coeli Laetare” (aka “The Easter Hymn”) and is an aria from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. It’s presented beautifully in this clip from the 1982 movie that Franco Zeffirelli made of the opera.

It has special meaning for me because the movie is set in a small Sicilian village that looks like the one my grandparents are from. I can just imagine them singing in an Easter morning procession with the whole village turning out.

**Editor’s Question** What’s the story behind your favorite Easter music or way to celebrate the glorious springtime?

>>>Photo Credits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmUw-zyklYQ ; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EGbMm5UqJs

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  • Michael Bean

    My absolute favorite Easter music is Pink Floyd, or maybe some Tom Petty, or….

    • Linda_LaScola

      ????

      • Michael Bean

        I don’t change my music listening preferences to accommodate the calendar, Pink Floyd et. al. is also my favorite Christmas music, New Years Eve music, 4th of July music, 5th of July music…..

  • mason

    Yeah, that’s quite a high C and expression at 1:40 ! I think that’s what you’re referencing. This piece would make part of a great juxtaposition soundtrack for “Godfather IV” if we can just resurrect Puzo.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Thanks for the laugh. Yeah — I really liked the Godfather series too — I understood all the Sicilian expressions and could tell who the other Sicilian-americans in the audience were because we all would laugh at the same time.

      • mason

        Hmmm…Sicilian … I must carefully remember to to be more circumspect with our interaction 🙂

        • Linda_LaScola

          WATCH OUT!

  • Wonderful piece, Linda, thanks for sharing. My (minister) wife and I listened together and were both moved.

    • Linda_LaScola

      And I’m glad you appreciated some of my favorite music.

      • Jim Jones
        • Linda_LaScola

          I never thought of guitar music as being moving – but this truly is!

          • mason

            And I’ve found classical guitar, sans orchestra, to be the most moving, feeling evolking. (I’m sure me playing guitar doesn’t create any bias) But this to me is the most moving Ave Maria https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNUJA9N14eM

          • ElizabetB.

            One of my favorite carols of all time is introduced by guitar — A Soalin’ sung by the Roanoke College Choir [another heard on WCPE — contacted the director, and he sent me a CD in time for Christmas present for (ahem)
            my spouse : ) ] The intro gives it that mysterious feel. The choral version on YouTube isn’t quite as musical as Roanoke, but you get the idea
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EKifGdfWcU

  • Keulan

    Miserere is great, but I always associate it with the video game Civilization 4 instead of Easter, because that’s where I first heard it. My favorite Easter music is probably this song from It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.

    • Linda_LaScola

      WOw – Keulan — I never heard of this game until now — found a link to the Miserere https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6rKsfL-lU4

      It’s a very fine rendition. I associate video games with loud, dissonant music and am so happy to see that classics are being used as well.

      Also loved Snoopy — quite a different sentiment – pure secular (or dog and bunny) joy.

  • ElizabetB.

    Thank you for the lovely music!! What a great Spring Break!! Aksel Rykkvin reminds me of Libera — when I first heard them, I figured the recording had been enhanced — who could sing that high?!! After Sandy Hook, near Christmas, it was Libera’s “Coventry Carol” that seemed to carry the depths of the sorrow.

    The Allegri reminds me of one of my favorite flash mobs — “Izar Ederrak”/”Beautiful Star” — the Philippine Madrigal Singers @ Abbey of Mont Saint Michel… a Basque story…
    secular loveliness!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63SvibwhUNU

    Wishing all a good Good Friday, at the Cathedral and everywhere

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ed6c52723646f41e4ef691e3b2f90977552d4e3d862fa17c5102e02445ee7e38.png

    • Linda_LaScola

      I’d never heard this beautiful piece before – thanks so much. Everyone looks so happy to be performing it. It makes me feel good about humanity — at least temporarily.

  • Linda_LaScola

    Thanks to Elizabeth, I’m now turned on to Libera (boy’s choral group) and found this lovely Ave Maria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91ucurJ4yAw&list=PLeFZervNjweUzALfGoYOlvHhrCjvS7H7n

    And most importantly, this reader’s comment, which expresses the power of music, separate from religious belief:

    “I’m not religious.. And barely spiritual.. I don’t know what I believe in.. but this… this made me cry.. it is sung by the most pure, angelic voices I’ve heard.. it makes me feel at peace.. like receiving a warm hug, to let go your worry, sadness, regret, guilt, depression…. you can’t describe just how it feels in words… And I don’t want it to be described.. I just want to FEEL it… And just so.. simply amazing.”

    • ElizabetB.

      These are three of the stratospheric soprano songs on the 1999 CD I ordered after hearing one on theclassicalstation.org (which streams free around the world and is available free to local stations).

      I think there are just basic human feelings that are evoked and expressed in various ways — words, music, visual arts, religious or secular. I think mathematicians see beauty in the equations, so that could be in there too. Muddying the waters, I just see all that as “spiritual” : )

      Jubilate Deo
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4P9NXZAMjQ

      Salva Me
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2O5540WjuE

      Sanctus
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BW4i-kYPVFc

  • carolyntclark

    Beautiful music. The Grand Delusion has certainly brought so much beauty to the world, from Sacred music to art to architecture.

    • mason

      I think the vast repository of all music has been inspired by delusion, illusion, & fantasy.

  • mason

    Here’s a Springtime composition I wrote for my wife several years ago. When I lived in Indiana it seemed Springtime took forever to arrive, didn’t last long, and was gone like it had just been an illusion. So many things in life are the same way. Sometimes remembering a dream bears little difference than remembering something from daytime life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP4Gaam-N84

    • Linda_LaScola

      very soothing. I hear waves rolling in

    • ElizabetB.

      wistful and lovely… Thanks so much…. It sounds like it could be sung… do you have words in mind for it?

      • mason

        Thanks ElizB … apparently destined to be wordless … would be interesting to hear the melody with some harmony, sung by the London Philharmonic Choir …I’ll await their email 🙂

        • ElizabetB.

          another “Song without Words,” for the 21st Century : )

          • mason

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d62ad2a739aa1493632cb44e71e1b40c1734ed127c44fd13a96d4a1fc21f870e.jpg Thanks … Well you’ve got a good ear Elizb !… now you’ve got me thinking … It would sound very cool to hear the song done kinda Gregorian chant style with low bass notes droning below the melody … the long arpeggio part will require a lot of range and above average singers … maybe I’ll have it transcribed and see if there’s a small vocal ensemble at Univ of Florida here that would like to record something original like this. I was listening to it vocally (just accapella) in my dream last night inside a huge cathedral with incredible acoustics. 🙂 Ah yes Mendelshon’s Song Without Words. I’d be more fond of it but he goes off on a couple tangents that make it sound like a silent movie sountrack; 🙂 Here’s an Easter chuckle

          • ElizabetB.

            wow… “remembering a dream” as you wrote earlier — literally!

            I hadn’t thought about singing the arpeggios… that’s intriguing.

            Would be very neat to hear!! however it develops, I hope there’ll be a guitar version… seems like sort of a perfect setting

            (no, hadda hide the chuckle …. too sad … like your intro to church?)

          • mason

            I thought the “church” building was nice… the sadomasochistic theism propaganda caused the instinctive revulsion. The bunny pic too sad,… now that’s a response from you I could have never predicted. Maybe you were traumatized by bunny like I was by zombie Jesus 🙂 bunny was a big hit on my FB. (scroll down about 5-6 post to see bunny replys; if it’s not too sad) I know a lot of people have a real phobia about clowns.
            https://www.facebook.com/mason.lane.94

          • ElizabetB.

            Was thinking of the kids’ distress at being corralled by this hairy monster, and what I’d remembered as your reaction to seeing a tortured half-naked figure at big people’s church…. Kids lead a hard life with us human beings!!!!

          • mason

            very apropos … those kids got there PTSD from that darling creepy rabbit, & I got mine from as you say “a tortured half-naked figure at big people’s church”… 🙂

  • Linda_LaScola

    Addendum: This is what was being sung as I was walked into the National Cathedral this afternoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFJ4hN7vxWo

    I’ve heard it before, but never by a live choir in a Cathedral.

    Here’s a comment from an atheist who listened to the youtube: “Being an atheist, this music is still incredibly beautiful. The beauty of religion is in things like this, pieces of music, in art, the beauty of it is all in the art. You can’t help but to love the beauty. This is a marvelous piece of music, composed by an extraordinary composer. You don’t have to be a believer to have respect for the art and music.”

    • mason

      I’ve always known that most haunting of pieces as “Adagio for Strings” -Barber … there seems to be a number pieces that get put under the Angus Dei title. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KylMqxLzNGo

      • mason

        Here’s another Angus Dei, (lamb of God) title.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPBmFwBSGb0

      • ElizabetB.

        Yes, I’ve know it as Adagio too. A music lover here had it played over the sound system at his memorial service… it set a beautiful and reassuring mood and made me think about copying him!

      • Linda_LaScola

        I’m thinking that this is how I’ve heard the piece in the past — not sung by a choir, though they are equally beautiful.

  • Machintelligence

    I don’t believe this is Easter music as such, but it has an ethereal tone that is hard to duplicate. It is Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis. Purportedly composed for a birthday celebration of Elizabeth I of England, it is a forty part motet (each voice singing a separate part.) The singers are grouped in 8 choirs of 5 persons and the original performance was in an octagonal hall with four balconies. Four of the choirs were placed on these balconies, and the other four on the main floor of the hall between them. The audience sat in the center of the hall — surround sound in the 16th century.
    It is not frequently performed (rehearsals must be quite a chore) and the only recording that truly did it justice was done on a 40 track tape recorder with each singer individually miked, and played back through 40 separate speakers. My favorite YouTube version was coasting along with about 60,000 views, until the movie Fifty Shades of Grey featured it in the sound track; so now it has over three million.
    One caution: there is a loud unintended pop at about 4:50 which takes everyone by surprise, so don’t turn the volume too high. 🙂
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cn7ZW8ts3Y

    • Linda_LaScola

      Good one, Mach – I never saw this performed before and I can see why. I learned that “Spem in alium” is the first part of the first line, when ends in ‘nunquam habui” and in its entirety means “I have never put my hope in any other” i.e., God (and perhaps by inference, the Queen?)

      • Machintelligence

        Well I was pretty sure the title didn’t refer to Spam in garlic sauce but High School Latin was over 50 years ago, and I have forgotten most of it. My handle, by the way is a contraction of machine intelligence, picked because I think that if we ever meet an interstellar visitor, it will be a machine. We “moist robots” aren’t designed for that environment.