Fourth Sunday of Lent – Repentance and Conversion
March 5, 2024
Highlighting Leela’s legacy this International Women’s Day
March 5, 2024

A time for musical sobriety – hymns for Lent

Detail of musical score

By Kaelanne Jordan

According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in Lent, “the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only to support the singing. Exceptions are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), Solemnities, and Feasts” (313).

The Music Team of the Liturgical Commission, with members Fr Kwesi Alleyne, Alana Seepersad and Fiona Bereaux, the Commission’s Head of Music, emphasised for several of our communities having musicians is a “luxury” even outside Lent: “generally in our context, such a stark approach to the season would be unimaginable and whether or not it would bear fruit is questionable.”

Brother Paschal Jordan, OSB

The “challenge”, they said, would be to take seriously the invitation to “musical sobriety” which supports the spirit of reflection and interiority characteristic of the Lenten journey.

Responding to the question on whether there is a specific criterion for composing hymns for Lent, ensuring that the hymns align with the profound themes and reflective spirit of the season, the Music Team highlighted Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship which speaks of three evaluations that should govern judgement of the quality of compositions for music in the liturgy: liturgical, pastoral, and musical judgement.

“These attend to the suitability of the piece to the liturgical act, to the people it shall minister to, as well as to principles of sound musicianship. If Lenten compositions, as they draw on the biblical and liturgical texts of the season and enter their spirituality of repentance and conversion take into account these criteria, they should do well in facilitating the prayer of the People of God,” the Music Team said.

Commenting on Lenten hymns they find especially powerful or meaningful, the Music Team referenced Benedictine Brother Paschal Jordan’s ‘Return to the Lord’: “it is so profoundly scriptural and meditative!”

In conveying the themes of penance, reflection, and spiritual preparation during Lent, the Music Team said there are specific musical elements or styles that they find particularly effective. They mentioned instrumental versions of popularly meditative hymns at appropriate points in the liturgy and well-executed acapella hymns.

“During Lent, we make more use of singing the hymns slower than usual (not dragging). Lent is the image of going into the desert, so the choice of songs must be so reflected,” the Music Team said.

And there is also silence. Silence is also welcomed in Lent.

Questioned on if there are hymns that bridge the gap between Lent and Easter, embodying the transition from penance to celebration, the Music Team commented ‘Whey He Day’ is “an interesting” Lent/Easter hymn.

“Maybe even more Easter as it can be interpreted as a search for the Lord, who was crucified and died. Like with Mary Magdalene,” the Music Team said.

Lent is rich with well-known hymns. The Music Team shared some local Lenten hymns and their composers:

Now is the Time, The Kindgom of God, Come back to Me: Fr Garfield Rochard (T&T)

By being Reconciled: Llewelyn Gill – St Lucia

Return to the Lord: Br Paschal Jordan (T&T and Guyana)

Dying He Destroyed Our Death: Carol McCollin

My God my God: Michael Stewart

Whey He Dey: Anthony Pierre

I come to the Cross: Dennis Scott & Noel Dexter

The Echo: Gwendolyn Hull de Mader (T&T)