Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Great Vigil of Easter: The Service of Readings

As the lights in the sanctuary are partially turned on, the Service of Readings is begun. Nine readings are appointed for this part of the service. They recount the history of the ancient people of Israel. Canticles are often found as part of the readings, and are typically chanted after said reading.

For instance, the history of God's People crossing the Red Sea is read. The Canticle of Moses, aka "Song of Moses" or "Song of Moses and Israel," is found at the end of the reading. It would then be sung by a cantor or choir. You can find the Canticle of Moses in Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 925. It is set with a refrain, so the congregation may sing just that in the dimly lit sanctuary, and a cantor can sing the verses.

Here is the Coptic Rite from Egypt singing the Canticle of Moses. Note: Western Rite churches would not yet sing "alleluia." They gave it up for Lent and are saving it for later in the service. We in the West are rarely treated to Coptic psalm tones. Enjoy!

Another example is the reading of the Three Men in the Fiery Furnace. In the apocryphal chapters of Daniel, we find the Canticle of Three Young Men, aka "The Song of Three Young Men." Look for setting of this canticle in Lutheran Service Book. The Jamaican version is Hymn 930, and a more traditional chant is found at Hymn 931. Both have a refrain that is easily learned. I happen to like the Jamaican setting!

You may already be familiar with the Jamaican tune. It is also sung to the text, "Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ." Here is the tune played by a handbell choir.

And here is a choral setting of the Canticle of Three Young Men.

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