WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5, 7 P.M., in the cathedral nave, and livestreamed
Tenebrae is, for many, a highlight of the liturgical year at Saint Mark’s, with its plainchant psalms and laments and a cappella meditations. The liturgy for Wednesday of Holy Week as we have it today was created by combining elements of three prayer offices, originally appointed for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, containing unique elements that have inspired composers through the centuries. These elements include the chanting of portions of the Book of Lamentations, with its distinctive Hebrew letters at the beginning of each verse, sung responsories which serve as small windows into the Passion narrative, and a complete rendition of Psalm 51, known as the Miserere. It is, in the words of The Book of Occasional Services, “an extended mediation upon, and a prelude to” the events of the Triduum.
The word tenebrae means “shadows,” and the most memorable element of the liturgy is the transformation of the space itself, without electric light: we begin in twilight and are gradually engulfed by darkness as the service progresses.
If you are participating online, consider dimming the electric lights and experience the shadows in your own setting.
Music is offered by the adults of Evensong Choir. A new element for 2023 is the setting of Psalm 51 which concludes the service, adapted from music by Gregorio Allegri, but quite different from the well-known “Allegri Miserere.”