Hymn of the Week: April 17, 2022
by David Sinden, Organist and Director of Music
St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Ladue
Hymn 207: “Jesus Christ is risen today”
If you worship at an Episcopal Church (or a church of almost any denomination) on Easter Day, there's a good chance you will sing "Jesus Christ is risen today" (Hymn 207).
The familiar tune Easter Hymn is more than three hundred years old. It is practically a "self-harmonizing" melody. It opens with a rising major triad, the three distinct notes of a major chord. The following notes outline a new chord and ascend even higher, taking the melody to the sixth note of the major scale. In the third line of the hymn, the tune explodes to a full ten notes above where it began. Each line of the hymn culminates with melismatic Alleluias.
It is "an extraordinary tune for its time," notes Robin Leaver, "anticipating the more exuberant tunes of the Evangelical revival" in the later 1700s.
But it remains an extraordinary tune for our time. This marvelous hymn is typically sung only at Easter. And after two years in which singing at Easter was quite different, the sound of Easter Hymn this year will be extraordinary indeed.
Listen to the hymn sung at King’s College, Cambridge, with a full congregation: