Tenebrae – Good Friday Evening

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Traditionally at St Michael’s on Good Friday evening at 8:00pm, the ancient service of Tenebrae is sung in Latin and English by the Choir from the West Gallery. The service is sung to plainsong and to polyphonic music by Orlando de Lassus (1532-94) and Tomas Luis de Victoría (1548-1611)

As you will be aware, all public worship and events have currently been suspended in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the church building must remain closed.

An archive recording of the  beautiful and moving service of Tenebrae can be heard here. The service was officiated by Fr Dr. John Hughes, former Curate of St Michael’s. 

For many years, St Michael’s was perhaps the only church in the Diocese to perform Tenebrae liturgically and fully during Holy Week; in recent years, a number of other churches have re-adopted this practice.

During the Readings and Psalms, the lights in the nave and on the Tenebrae Candelabrum are gradually extinguished, with the service ending in darkness and silence to symbolise Jesus’ descent to the dead.

Since part of the text is an acrostic poem from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, each verse is preceded by singing a letter from the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, Beth, Gimel, etc. Each piece of 4-part harmony by Lassus like a musical illuminated manuscript for the plainsong verse that follows.