Every once in a while there’s a piece of music that paints such a beautiful picture of happiness, rebirth, renewal, and the essence of Easter, that you just have to get up and dance a jig.
That’s what Byrd’s Haec Dies does for me.
Latin for This is the Day (the Lord Hath Made), it symbolizes everything about the Easter season. Intricate dancing harmonies and melodies, colorful flowering bursts of energy, and a jaunty rhythm, it makes me want to get up and smell the roses, open the windows, and say a giant Thank You to Springtime.
There is a new album from the Choir of Clare College, Cambridge, called Haec Dies, Music for Easter, a collection of music celebrating rebirth and renewal. It mixes music that is both centuries old with more contemporary pieces, all of which center around the Resurrection theme.
Many of the pieces will be familiar to choral music fans, including Byrd’s Haec Dies, but there are some wonderful newer favorites I had never heard before. Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem from Charles Villiers Stanford (you know you live in a different world when “newer” means “anything after the 17th century”) is big with amazing organ, filling a chapel, and everything I would expect from Stanford.
There is also a beautiful contemplative Pascha Nostrum from Byrd that I had never heard before, which made me melancholy. Pascha Nostrum is text that talks about the Passover – it is both supremely grateful while also recognizing that the path to redemption was death. Saying goodbye to winter and embracing new life isn’t always easy. Coming out of a cocoon and transforming into a butterfly requires energy and sacrifice.
The organ is particularly amazing on this album. Most of the choral music I listen to is a capella, so it’s a treat to hear contemporary pieces with organ interspersed with the early stuff. To be honest, I’m not sure that it entirely works – the moods are so different jumping four hundred years in one song, and I wouldn’t want all my choral albums to do this. But occasionally it’s a nice change.
Check it out below in the Spotify player and let me know what you think. Does it make you want to dance a jig, too? Which piece was your favorite?
Buy the album on Amazon: