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Music for Holy Week – 1


Alberto Ginastera and The Lamentations of Jeremiah

Music by Alberto Ginastera, Text from the Book of Lamentations


The program Sanford Dole has developed for our March concert includes a variety of works. As you might expect, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Sanford, in addition to being BCG’s artistic director, has been Music Director at St. Gregory of Nyssa Church in San Francisco for over 20 years. For this concert, he has chosen anthems, highlights, that the St. Gregory’s choir has sung at various Holy Week services over the years of his tenure. To quote Sanford:

“It occurred to me that the arc of emotions that are expressed across the week, starting with the exhilarating Hallelujahs expressed on Palm Sunday through the intimacy of a small gathering on Maundy Thursday and the sadness of the arrest and execution of Christ on Good Friday, followed by the awe and jubilation of Easter music would make for a satisfying program.”

LamentationsCover The works are from a variety of eras, Renaissance to 21st century, and written in a variety of musical styles. We do not perform them chronologically, but each service will be represented by texts that relate to the particular service. Lamentationes de Jeremais Propheta, a three-movement anthem by Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), is a part of our Good Friday set. Various verses from the Book of Lamentations, a long poem mourning the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BCE, have been set to music by numerous composers, and often sung as part of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services.

For his composition, Ginastera set, not necessarily in order, various lines of text from verses 1, 3 and 5 of the Book of Lamentations. The music he wrote for his extremely dramatic setting of these verses evokes a range of emotions from the heights of anger to depths of sorrow, finally ending with an affirmation of the greatness of God. Although the Biblical verses refer to Jerusalem’s destruction, Ginastera’s verse choices in combination with his music make a highly moving musical depiction of Christ’s capture, trial and crucifixion. Although it’s not an easy piece to sing, the music paints very vivid pictures and certainly captures the imagination.

One of our choristers, curious about the composer and the piece, found a very comprehensive discussion and analysis PDF done by Scott Tucker, Artistic Director of the Choral Arts Society of Washington for a program in 2014 at the Kennedy Center. It’s well worth reading.

There are also many links to further information on Ginastera – origins, career, etc. Because he was an educated, talented Argentinian, who lived during the Peron era, several sources speculated that his Lamentationes de Jeremais Propheta reflected the dire situation in Argentina under Peron.

You can read more information on Ginastera here.