The disappearance of ‘alleluia’

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For someone like myself who grew up in a very non-liturgical Baptist church, some of the liturgical traditions seem a little crazy, or extreme. Yet the people in these traditions can sometime be very extreme in their observances and positions on them.

One such observance, a part of lent in many traditions, is not saying/singing the word “alleluia” during Lent.

The reasons for the observance have a legitimate philosophical and theological basis. As one website notes:

The point of the season is a kind of exile. While the event of the resurrection has occurred in history, the days of Lent serve as a reminder that we do not yet experience the kingdom in its fullness. We live in the hope of the resurrection, but the weakness of human existence is all too evident in this life. The omission of the alleluia is one symbolic way to enter into the spirit of the season of Lent. The days of Lent are days of penance and recollection of human weakness but also days of anticipation and so we long for the day when the kingdom is fully realized. To be deprived of certain things during the days of Lent is designed to create a longing for the realization of all that the life of Jesus promises.

Now, this has a direct, practical impact on those of us in the church music community.  There are a lot of songs that use these words. The selections of hymns and service music is affected. But in the choral community it has another impact. We are always rehearsing music a season in advance. That means we have to sing quite a few alleluias during the Lenten season to be ready for the glorious breakout of Easter.

But to some people that breaks the “alleluia” prohibition. I heard one fellow choral member tell a story about a lady who came down really hard on the choir in her church, the choir my story-telling friend belonged to. They wrestled with her, trying to explain the concept of rehearsal.

This extreme view has a different solution in some circles.Some choirs are not even allowed to rehearse with “alleluia”. I have heard that in some of those circles, the choirs have gone to rehearsing with “what’s it to you” during lent, in place of the “alleluias” they aren’t allowed to sing. That is a unique, and extreme, adherence, to tradition.

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