A few thoughts about Holy Week

April 26th, 2020

It’s probably almost an understatement to say that this year’s Holy Week and Easter celebrations have been so different for all of us not just here in Perth, but through many parts of the world.

Here at the Cathedral, we all missed our Cathedral Choir, orchestra and soloists who powerfully move us into a profound experience of these rich liturgies and the eternal mysteries we celebrate in these days; our Cantors – a single one each time – sang for each of the ceremonies with myself playing our Chancel Organ.

Reflecting upon this and stemming from my own regular chats and discussions with our musicians, I thought it would be good for our Cantors who sang at these ceremonies to share some thoughts with us about their experience of Holy Week 2020:

Emma Oorschot: In this difficult time I have found myself drawn closer in relationship to God. Although separated from the sacraments I have reached for spiritual Communion and dived deeper into prayer. This need we have for Our Lord has had to be fulfilled in new and different ways as has our need for human relationship in these times. In times of strife and difficulty we cling to God and our faith for security. In my own need for God I have entered more deeply into prayer and seek out Our Lord in new ways. I hope that others have also been drawn closer to God in these times and that when our churches reopen, we bring these practices with us.

Holy Week was tough this year. It was harder to enter into the tumultuous journey of emotions that the Passion inspires, especially Our Lord’s triumph over death and sin when many of us are feeling alone and uncertain in isolation. As a church musician I always eagerly await Holy Week and the chance to perform what I feel is some of the greatest music ever composed. Although I think we are very lucky to live in a time where we can still witness the Mass via the internet, I felt the loss of this sometimes reverent, sometimes sorrowful, and sometimes majestic and triumphant music that helps us to enter more deeply into our Holy Week celebrations. As it says in Musicam Sacram “Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with the ministers of each degree fulfilling their ministry and the people participating in it…through this form, prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem.”

As on one hand I acknowledge how lucky we are to live in such a technologically advanced era, on the other I most eagerly look forward to the reopening of our churches, the reuniting of our communities and the return of our “noble form” of worship that is the sung Mass! 

Dennis Nixon: Singing at Holy Week this year was significantly different to the past. I certainly missed the eerie, prayerful quiet and darkness of the Cathedral at the end of the Holy Thursday Mass. I missed all the reflective music we have during Holy Week. It was an honour to sing for Holy Thursday this year, and whilst different to the usual setting, it was still prayerful and reverent. I hope the COVID-19 crisis passes soon, and I look forward to singing with the choir again.

Joshua Adams: I was involved in the live streaming of Holy Week at the Cathedral and consider myself really lucky to have been there for our beautiful Easter services in this time when we aren’t able to gather together to celebrate them. They were a really different Holy Week experience, but valuable in that they showed the essential essence from which each of them are constituted. Personally, I found many moments of beauty in their simplicity.