Willan for Wednesday

March 23, 2016 at 10:30 am

Holy Week continues …

Yesterday I praised the beauty of Bach’s Passions. The problem is, those pieces are huge productions, requiring an orchestra (sometimes two), choir (sometime three), and a dozen excellent soloists. That sort of performance takes lots of people, time, and money.

The good news is that beauty can be found in the small as well as the large. Equally moving are Healey Willan‘s very functional musical settings for Tenebrae, a service where light slowly gives way to darkness. Willan sets the traditional responses for the service in a textbook choral style, making it accessible to small choirs and liturgically practical. The effect of the music is perfect – you can feel the weight and gravity of the day pulling on you. As an added bonus, you can hear and understand the text perfectly – something which can easily become lost in the counterpoint of the Bach passions.