“The soundtrack to my soul.” This is how members of the Folk Choir often describe the music we sing. Every year, I find this to be especially appropriate as we prepare for Holy Week—the music that fills our rehearsal room and choir loft becomes ever more wrenching, piercing the hearts and souls of both singers and congregants. Because this year’s Easter comes early in the spring, the academic time surrounding this particular Holy Week is one of transition, during which students of all ages are solidifying plans for the coming summer, seniors are making final decisions about their next steps, and clubs and student organizations on campus are changing leadership roles. Yet in the midst of it all, we draw ever nearer to the remembrance of our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, an event that is central to our lives as Christians.
Holy Week for a member of the Folk Choir is, I would venture, a life-changing experience. Given the sheer volume of rehearsal time, one cannot be a mere passive participant in the mystery of Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection—it is simply impossible to escape the constant musical loop of Sing, Hosanna; Cross Cry; My God, My God (Psalm 22); and many others. This music truly resides within one’s soul, and allows one to accompany Jesus over the path strewn with palm leaves, through the agony of the march to Calvary, and finally upon the Cross. Even as I write this, the refrains of this music thrum through my mind, serving as a constant reminder that this coming week is not about the academic workload, the endless decisions, or the numerous rehearsals—this next week is about contemplating the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, and our song for the upcoming week will help create a space for deeper and more intense prayer.
Several days ago, someone asked me if singing in a choir during liturgies allowed me to enter more deeply into prayer, or if the music was a distraction. While the answer is often “both”—sometimes, I do find myself focusing more on the music itself than on its meaning—I would argue that singing during Holy Week liturgies has yielded experiences of deep and constant prayer that I have rarely felt so poignantly. The music of our choir resounds in the soul; it causes one’s spirit to tremble in awe of the reality of the mysteries we celebrate.
As we enter into this Holy Week, our music lifts our hearts ever higher toward the eternal God. Christ’s Passion, death, and Resurrection are made tangible in our song and prayer, and we contemplate these mysteries as we move towards the joy of Easter.