Easter morning has always featured thrilling series of liturgies at the Cathedral. The traditional brass quartet (2 trumpets, 2 trombones, with timpani) augments the fiery organ playing and nobly supports the equally-inspired singing of the Cathedral Choir of Boys and Men. It also generated Wayne’s first major composition Christ our Passover, premiered in 1948 and recorded by the Choir before their Westminster Abbey trip in 1967. As the programs below show, it became an immediate fixture in the Cathedral’s Easter Sunday repertoire.
We are lucky to have Wayne’s own vivid description of his very first Easter morning at the Cathedral from a letter of April 7, 1942.
“Then came the 11:00 service, and about that I can hardly say a thing, for it was something I shall never forget. The processional — with flags, banners, 2 Bishops, 9 clergymen, the Dean — all of it like I have always dreamed Easter Sunday could be — was, in fact, somewhere. I had nothing to do but sit back in the alcove behind the organ console and enjoy it, and the emotions with which I was filled that morning were of every description — dominated by pure joy. The music was perfection itself, and the brass and tympani augmenting the organ raised the vaulted arches right off the pillars. I made my communion at that service, which lasted until 1:00 p.m. What a service!
“An estimated 12,000 people passed through the Cathedral that day, and the eleven o’clock service was heard in every one of the lower chapels through amplification, and communion given also with priests below saying the service when it started — not until after Morning Prayer and Sermon was over, and all those not wishing to take communion had left, to be replaced by the thousand or so outside who were waiting to get in.”
He had been on the job seven weeks.
Dirksen’s roster of Easter anthems has some of his finest works including Hilariter (1957) and Sing, Ye Faithful (1995) (which Wayne himself considered his best piece.) Also of note is Welcome, Happy Morning (1975), a nine-minute mini-cantata setting of the Fortunatus text that awaits a definitive recorded performance.
This playlist features selections from the Cathedral’s traditional repertoire over the decades. Most are live performances and give a genuine sense of the excitement and majesty of the day.