The CSI Redeemer Church Choir chose Bach and Handel to mark Good Friday.
“God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, that whoever believeth in Him should not perish But have everlasting life For God sent not His son into the world to condemn the world But that the world through Him might be saved” -- sang the choir of the CSI Redeemer Church on Good Friday morning infusing fresh meaning into the oft-quoted verse in the Bible. The Harold Moore's song based on John 3:16 was one of the dozen Passion music pieces the choir conductor Immanuel Ponraj had zeroed in on for the solemn occasion.
A Good Friday church service sans a message by the priest from the pulpit, well, that has many rooting for the idea, coming as the day does close on the heels of Maundy Thursday when the Last Supper scene is recalled. In Protestant tradition, it is not unusual to have three-hour meditation on the Seven significant utterances of Jesus while on the Cross, for it is on a Friday like this 2000 years ago Christ laid down His life at Calvary.
As someone said the other day, at times deeply stirring music by composers such as Handel and Bach can minister more than even a sermon. Rev D.C. Premraj, the presbyter who encourages and actively participates in liturgical music, had his wife, Reverend Deborah, assisting in the prayers and responses.
J.Bach’s ‘Jesu! Who In Sorrow Dying’ was the opening piece by the choir. Then followed the 14 Stations of the Cross, each marked by pithy narration, praise and prayer and well supported by music. The Stations of the Cross represent Jesus's journey carrying the cross to His crucifixion in Jerusalem.
“Behold the Lamb”, “Haste ye souls” and “All we like sheep have gone astray” were excerpts from Handel's ‘Messiah’ that found place in the two and a half-hour musical morn. Our hearts were ‘strangely warmed’ when the strains of Handel's music were sung to crisp accompaniment from the talented young pianist Jeslyn. The soloists for the two pieces, “God so loved the world” and “Haste ye souls” charmed the audience and the conductor Ponraj joined wife Rebecca for a stanza in Eugene Clark's “Why must I die”? with the entire choir backing them.
The congregation got to sing a couple of classics too: ‘O sacred head’ and ‘Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrows,’ with the latter leading into Alas! and did my Saviour bleed.
When it came to the chorus: ‘At the cross, at the cross where I first saw the light’, the choir and congregation belted out the familiar strains in happy affirmation of their belief.
The choir, a good blend of youth and experience, was well-prepared for the not-so-easy compositions chosen for the day and it was a glorious sight to see every single member on their knees for the final ‘Story of the Cross.’ This concluding part of the service had three distinct sections for the congregation, choir and presbyter singing the stanzas where Rev Premraj sings the words of Jesus. “Crown Him with many crowns” was the concluding hymn to round off the musical Good Friday - a day when the message came across with telling effect through song and music. A budding pianist in the audience, Anusha Ruth Sundar, put it like this, “the skilful interspersing of the music with passages from the Bible and short prayers made this unique service unforgettable.”