This week Christians around the world celebrate Holy Week, culminating on Easter Sunday. Easter brings together two traditions: the ancient pagan vernal festival, and the Christian festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
It's a tradition with a very long history. The word Easter is thought to have come from the Saxon goddess of spring, Eastre. Sometime after the 2nd century, the Christian holy day was integrated with the ancient pagan festivals of spring, with their message of rebirth and celebration. Combining sacred texts with music, the story of Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection gave Christian sacred music a more solemn and exalted tone.
"Across the centuries," says John Kehoe, "men and women have shared a profound need to express those truths and feelings that words alone rarely convey. By some alchemy, sublime words may be transmuted by music into a distant echo of a Paradise lost, and voices exhale the breath of life."
Music is by SCHUBERT, FRANCK, MOZART, FAURÉ, DURUFLÉ, BIEBL, BURGON, GABRIELI, HOLBORN, J.L.WEBBER, BOBBY McFERRIN, and THE BOYS AIR CHOIR.