This page features some music chosen by the Dean of Hereford as a reflection for each day during Holy Week, with a short introduction to each piece.


Palm Sunday Hosanna to the Son of David (Orlando Gibbons)

To celebrate Palm Sunday we have one of the finest anthems of the early 17th century. In eight parts, it’s complex and difficult – but for me, it really describes the joy of the first Palm Sunday: as the choir sings the many different parts of the anthem, so perhaps we may imagine the crowd – many and varied – gathering, cutting down palm branches and rejoicing that their king has come to release them and bring them freedom.

Listen to Hosanna to the Son of David

Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Blessed be the King of Israel. Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest places. Hosanna in the highest heavens.

Matthew 21: 9


Monday of Holy Week Memento homo quod cinis est (William Byrd) 

We’re coming to the end of the season of Lent. It’s been a Lent we will never forget, with its huge changes in our way of life, our country and our Church. The anthem I’ve chosen is a setting of the words which are spoken at the imposition of ash on Ash Wednesday: ‘Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.’ Today, we must remember – and remember good times. It’s easy – natural – to be lowered by all that’s going on around us, but let’s also remember the many things that make our lives worth living: family, friends, our faith, the world around us, being able to remember the good times.

William Byrd’s anthem was written at a time of great turbulence for him and his faith community. Let’s pray that his music will bring us the peace that it no doubt brought him and his friends.

Listen to Memento homo quod cinis est

Memento homo, quod cinis es, et in cinerem reverteris.

Remember, man, that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.


Tuesday of Holy Week  Greater Love (John Ireland)

We move now to the 20th century and to one of the best-loved anthems of that period. John Ireland has brought together several texts from scripture. Some make it relevant for Remembrance Sunday, but for me the phrase to listen out for is the treble solo: ‘Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree.’

Today, we give thanks for the sacrifice of Christ and his call to us to live lives of generosity and self-giving.

Listen to Greater Love

Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Love is strong as death. Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness. Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus. Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Song of Solomon 8: 7, 6; John 15: 13;
1 Peter 2: 24; 1 Corinthians 6: 11;
1 Peter 2: 9; Romans 12: 1


Wednesday of Holy Week  Christus factus est (Anton Bruckner) 

Anton Bruckner was a 19th-century composer of deep and simple faith, and his anthem reminds us of what lies at the very heart of the Passion story: that Christ, though he was God, emptied himself to be like you and me – human – so that he could be one with us in our joys and in our sorrows.

Listen to Christus factus est

Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem, mortem autem crucis.
Propter quod et Deus exaltavit illum et dedit illi nomen quod est super omne nomen.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.

Philippians 2: 8–9


Maundy Thursday Ave verum (William Byrd)

Today we recall the institution of the Holy Communion. This lovely motet by William Byrd reminds us of dark days when Catholics were not able to celebrate Mass openly – Byrd, as a Catholic, often lived in great danger. While we give thanks for the unity we enjoy today, we remember those for whom worshipping openly is not an option. As we hear this motet, we give thanks for the times we have received Holy Communion and for the many ways in which our lives have been nourished and sustained by the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to Ave verum

Ave verum corpus natum
Ex Maria virgine:
Vere passum immolatum
In cruce pro homine:

Cuius latus perforatum
Vero fluxit sanguine:
Esto nobis praegustatum
Mortis in examine.

O dulcis, O pie, O Jesu, fili Mariae,
miserere mei. Amen.

Hail, true Body, born
of the Virgin Mary;
who, having truly suffered, was
sacrificed on the cross for man:

from whose pierced side
flowed water and blood;
be to us a foretaste [of the heavenly
banquet] in the trial of death.

O gentle, loving Jesus, Son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.

Hymn to the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi


Good Friday God so loved the world (John Stainer)

This is one of the earliest pieces of church music I can remember. When I was a boy, my father was organist of our local parish church and I sang in his choir. Each year we sang Stainer’s Crucifixion. It’s a work which has been derided as Victorian sentimentalism, but I always find it strangely moving, not least this movement, putting to music what is for me, one of the central texts of the Bible and at the very heart of our faith: that God is for us – a kindly and loving judge, friend and brother.

Listen to God so loved the world

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoso believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.

John 3: 16–17


Holy Saturday This joyful Eastertide (Charles Wood)

The mood changes and we hear what is, for me, one of the simplest yet most telling of Easter anthems. Minor gives way to major, despair to hope, sorrow to joy.

Listen to This joyful Eastertide

This joyful Eastertide,
 Away with sin and sorrow
My Love, the Crucified
 Hath sprung to life this morrow:
Had Christ, that once was slain,
 Ne’er burst his three-day prison,
Our faith had been in vain:
 But now hath Christ arisen.

My flesh in hope shall rest,
 And for a season slumber:
Till trump from east to west
 Shall wake the dead in number:
Had Christ …

Death’s flood hath lost its chill,
 Since Jesus crossed the river:
Lover of souls, from ill
 My passing soul deliver:
Had Christ …

George R Woodward 1848–1934


Easter Day  Blessed be the God and Father (Samuel Sebastian Wesley)

They say this anthem was written when Wesley was organist of Hereford Cathedral. He was a forward-thinking musician but was often dispirited by the musical resources he found and by the lack of support from Dean and Chapter. He wrote this anthem for Easter Day 1834, but the resources available that day were such that the anthem was sung by the choristers and just one bass, who also happened to be the Dean’s butler! For all that, it’s a wonderful piece and we all listen out for the huge dominant seventh chord which ushers in the final section: it wakes us up and encourages us to go out to proclaim the Easter faith!

Listen to Blessed be the God and Father

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. But, as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation. Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear. Love one another with a pure heart fervently: see that you love one another. Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God; for all flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for evermore. Amen.

1 Peter 1: 3–5, 15–17, 22–25