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Let The Pow'rs of Heav'n Exult!

posted Apr 23, 2011, 7:13 AM by Steven Vaughan
The Exsultet is the song of praise that the Church offers to Christ on the night of his rising.  This great poem, a rhapsody in the best sense of the word, takes us through the long journey of humanity to a cosmic look into the future, to the Second Coming of Christ.  It urges us to rejoice with all creation in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and incessantly reminds us

This is the night...

The origin of the Easter Proclamation goes back as far as the fifth century, though this year we're performing a  setting of it composed only twenty years ago for choir and percussion by Roc O'Connor, SJ.  He is probably most known for his song Seek the Lord, but has two solo collections, Rise Up in Splendor and Behold the Glory of God.  As part of the St. Louis Jesuits, he received Grammy nominations in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980.

Using percussion in contemporary sacred music doesn't just provide dynamic color.  Dr. John C. Pennington writes in Today's Liturgy that “the plethora of references to percussion instruments throughout Scripture certainly presents us with the historical precedence for their inclusion in the liturgy and the praise and glory of God.”  All ancient nations had a toph, or hand-drum, of comparatively small size played at religious ceremonies.  (Larger stationary drums were only created a few hundred years ago by modern Europeans.)  The tabret is a small hand-drum played in pairs, like modern bongos, and in Scripture is usually associated with occasions of mirth.   Though they weren't always round, they were often oblong or square.  But the timbrel, or tambourine, has changed very little since Biblical times. 

In addition to this percussive setting, another member of the St. Louis Jesuits, Dan Schutte, composed one called Most Holy Night for cantor, choir, keyboard and guitar.  Australian Jesuit Father Christopher Willcock calls his A Song of Easter Praise.  And for a contemporary Spanish-language setting, listen to Pregón Pascual by Jaime Cortez. 
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