One of the most powerful services of the church year is the Tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday of Holy Week. It is a sequence of solemn readings from the last scenes of Jesus’ life as he descends toward the cross. One of the things that gives the service such impact is that after each reading, one of seven candles is extinguished until the sanctuary is left in total darkness.
I’ve always wanted to compose a piece for seven musicians to accompany this service, with a movement of music to follow each scripture reading. After each reading, one musician at a time will turn off his/her light and leave the stage. By the 7th reading, only one musician will remain. This year, due to an abundance of cellos at the church, I finally have my chance to implement this decade long idea and am writing a piece for cello septet.
Here is a rough draft of movement #1, based on Matthew 26:20-25: When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.” 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” He replied, “You have said so.”