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Hardly have church musicians survived the Christmas holidays and helped place the Baby Jesus safely in the creche, when they have to begin planning music for Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Many choir directors already have their "ducks lined up in a row." For those who are still selecting anthems for this season, here are some ideas for consideration.

"This is the Fasting I Ask" - Michael Connolly, G2720, SATB/keyboard accompaniment. GIA This is a beautiful and haunting anthem whose text is Isaiah 58:1-12, the alternative Old Testament lesson for Ash Wednesday.

"Lay Up For Yourselves" - Ned Rorem, M051464449, SATB acappella, , Boosey & Hawkes. This short motet is one of seven commissioned by All Saints' Episcopal Church, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Ned Rorem, one of America's best-known composers, has provided a harmonically beautiful setting of this famous text from the sixth chapter of Matthew's Gospel-which happens to be the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday. Choirs will find this anthem challenging, but will appreciate its beauty when they have mastered its intricacies.

"The Lord Is My Light" - Stephen Sturk, AM119, SATB/organ, Arista Editions. Here is an anthem appropriate for the Second Sunday in Lent in the current Ecclesiastical Year C. Its text is taken from Psalm 27, the psalm appointed for that day. Composed by Stephen Sturk, a young American composer who lives on the West Coast, it was commissioned by the Association of Anglican Musicians and dedicated to Mildred Buttrey, who had been music director at the Episcopal Church in Amherst, MA. It was premiered at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven in 1988. This is a lush setting scored for soprano solo, SATB choir with organ accompaniment. It is well within the capabilities of the average church choir.

"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" - Malcolm Archer, #97732A, 2 part trebles, Kevin Mayhew/Mel Bay Publications. This charming setting of the famous Isaac Watts text is scored for treble choir and organ. Malcolm Archer, currently the organist and master of the choir at Wells Cathedral in England, has crafted a simple setting utilizing his own music rather than using the standard hymn tunes. Children love singing this piece.

"Seek the Lord" - Richard Dirksen, A6019, SATBdivisi, Shawnee Press. This anthem's text is taken from the Old Testament Lesson for the the Third Sunday of Lent, Isaiah 55:1-9. Composer Dirksen was the musician at the National Cathedral, Washington, DC. This work is not for the average choir, but for polished choirs, it's difficulty is well worth the effort. It is one of three anthems based on texts from Isaiah.

"Motet for Passion Sunday" - Frank Ferko, #4916, SATB acapella, ECS Publishing. Once we have heard the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday, the whole mood of the liturgy moves from the "Hosannas," shouted at the blessing of the palms and sung in procession, to the sobering story of Jesus' passion and crucifixion. Ferko, a Midwestern composer, has provided us with a sensitive musical setting of the text. His setting is reminiscent of the music of John Tavener and Arvo Paert.

"Two Miniatures for Holy Week" - Leo Nestor, #5158, SATB acapella, ECS Publishing. I particularly wish to recommend the second of these two short motets, "Faithful Cross" by Leo Nestor, the music director at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. This sensual setting has harmonies reminiscent of Ravel. This lovely motet is suitable for either Palm Sunday or Good Friday, and the text is in English and Latin/Spanish.

"Good Friday Anthems" - Russell Schulz, G4390, SATB/cello, G.I.A. Here is a wonderful anthem meant to be sung during the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. Schulz, music director of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin and at The School of Theology of the Southwest, uses chant-like melodies to be sung by the choir with cello accompaniment. The cello part reminds me of the Bach Suites for cello. My choir has performed this work for the last two years much to our congregation's delight.

"We Glory in Your Cross" - Donald Pearson, #4537, SAB, Oregon Catholic Press. Another short anthem suitable for Good Friday, composed by Donald Pearson, organist/choirmaster of St. John's Cathedral, Denver. This piece is also meant to be sung at the Veneration of the Cross.

"Rejoice, O My Spirit" - Johann S. Bach/edited Eason, #50305790, Unison/keyboard, G. Schirmer/Hal Leonard. A delightful anthem for young choirs that children love to sing, the music has been taken from one of the Bach's cantatas. It is particularly appropriate for the Great Vigil of Easter.

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