Music for Palm Sunday of the Passion — March 28, 2021

Hosanna to the Son of David – Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625)

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Orlando Gibbons was a leading composer, virginalist and organist in the late Tudor and early Jacobean periods. He sang in the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge between 1596 and 1598 and was granted the degree of Bachelor of Music in 1606 before being appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal by James I, where he served as an organist from at least 1615 and became senior organist in 1623.

Gibbons wrote many keyboard works, fantasias for viols, madrigals, anthems and some Anglican services. His writing demonstrates a superb mastery of melody, development and counterpoint. Hosanna to the Son of David is a vivid and resplendent anthem for double choir (though with a single bass part, used to especially telling effect near the end); it could well have been written to grace a royal or other ceremonial occasion. The multiplicity of its printed and manuscript sources is indicative of its widespread popularity in the seventeenth century.

Hosanna to the Son of David.
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the King of Israel.
Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest places.
Hosanna in the highest heavens.


Christus factus est – Felice Anerio (1560-1614)

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In the classical Roman rite, this text from Philippians 2:8-9, also part of today’s Epistle, was sung as the Gradual at Mass on Maundy Thursday. [The name “Gradual” comes from the fact that a soloist originally chanted the psalm (today’s text, unusually, is not from the psalms) from an elevated place, the step (gradus) of the ambo where the subdeacon had just read the Epistle.] However, since the promulgation of the novus ordoby Pope Paul VI in 1969, it has instead been employed as the Gradual at Mass on Palm Sunday.

Felice Anerio was born into a musical Roman family; his father Maurizio was a trombone player and his younger brother Giovanni Francesco was also a composer. In 1594 he was appointed composer to the Papal Chapel on the death of Palestrina. Christus factus est is notable for the striking dissonance of its opening, and for its effective use of suspensions as the main expressive device. This motet, for which Anerio is now most widely known, was not published in his lifetime along with his other sacred works. The St. James’ Choir last sang this piece on Palm Sunday 2019.

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens
usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.
Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum

et dedit illi nomen,

quod est super omne nomen.

Christ became obedient for us

unto death, even to on the cross.
Therefore God exalted Him

and gave Him a name

which is above all names.


Gerald Harder