A Playlist for Holy Week 2.0

What a difference a year makes! This time last spring, the existential dread was starting to sink in as we hunkered down for the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, several vaccines are being administered by the hundreds of thousands each day, businesses and schools are beginning to reopen, and there’s a general tone of optimism in the air. Of course, we still have a long way to go to reach normalcy (the multiple COVID variants are slightly worrisome…), but for the time being, hope is on the horizon.

Speaking of hope, another Holy Week is upon us. In April 2020, I created a Holy Week playlist on Spotify (which you can check out here) and enjoyed the process so much that I decided to make an entirely different one this year. This time, though, I had some input from my good friend Geoff Nelson, Director of Liturgy and Worship at New City Presbyterian Church. After some discussion, Geoff and I assembled a 3-hour playlist that brims with some amazing sacred music. Like last year’s version, this one presents an aural “journey” through the days of Holy Week and encompasses a spectrum of classical sounds along the way, from Renaissance polyphony to modern Passion settings. (You can view the lineup below; the Spotify playlist itself can be found at the bottom of this post.)

No matter your creed or belief system, we hope that this music will provide you with peace, hope, and encouragement for this time of year, as we look forward to brighter days in the future.


  1. J.S. Bach: St. John Passion, BWV 245 – Opening: “Herr, unser Herrscher” (Lord, our Lord)

Palm Sunday

  1. Claudio Monteverdi: Cantate Domino
  2. C.P.E. Bach: Heilig ist Gott, Wq. 217 (Holy is God)
  3. Libby Larsen: “I will sing and raise a psalm”
  4. George Walker: Cantata – “Four Verses from the 24th Psalm”
  5. Felix Mendelssohn: Heilig, WoO 27
  6. Benjamin Britten: “Sanctus” from War Requiem

Maundy Thursday

  1. John Taverner: Quemadmodum desiderat cervus (As the hart longs)
  2. Ralph Vaughan Williams: “Love bade me welcome” from Five Mystical Songs
  3. Olivier Messiaen: “Prière avant la communion” from Livre du Saint-Sacrement (“Prayer before communion” from The Book of the Blessed Sacrement)
  4. Arvo Pärt: “I am the true vine”
  5. Ludwig van Beethoven: Christ on the Mount of Olives – Duet: “So ruhe dann mit ganzer Schwere” (So rest then with all its weight)
  6. John Adams: “Pues mi Dios ha nacido a penar” from El Niño (Because my Lord was born to suffer)
  7. Osvaldo Golijov: St. Mark Passion – “Arresto, Danza de la Sábana Blanca, and Ante Caifás” (Arrest, Dance of the White Sheet, and Before Caiaphas)

Good Friday

  1. Franz Liszt: Via crucis, S. 53 – Stations II and III: “Jesus trägt sein Kreuz,” “Jesus fällt zum ersten Mal” (Jesus receives his cross, Jesus falls for the first time)
  2. Samuel Barber: “The Crucifixion” from Hermit Songs
  3. Tomás Luis de Victoria: O Domine Jesu Christe (O Lord Jesus Christ)
  4. Franz Joseph Haydn: The Seven Last Words of Christ, Hob.XX:2 (arr. string quartet) – IV. Largo: “Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen?” (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?)
  5. Sofia Gubaidulina: Seven Words – “Weib, siehe, das ist dein Sohn. Siehe, das ist deine Mutter” (Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother)
  6. Victoria: “Caligaverunt oculi mei” from Tenebrae Responsories (My eyes are darkened by my tears)
  7. Tan Dun: “Death and Earthquake” from Water Passion
  8. Traditional: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

Holy Saturday

  1. Tōru Takemitsu: Requiem for String Orchestra
  2. Francis Poulenc: “Tenebrae factae sunt” from Quatre motets pour un temps de pénitence (“Darkness fell upon the Earth” from Four Penitential Motets)
  3. David Lang: “after sorrow” from mystery sonatas
  4. Victoria: O vos omnes (O all you who walk by)
  5. Ethel Smyth: Fugue on “O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid” (O darkest woe, O heart’s pain)
  6. J.S. Bach: Cantata BWV 4, “Christ lag in Todes Banden” (Christ lay in death’s bonds) – Duet: “Den Tod Niemand Zwingen Kunnt” (No one could defeat death)

Easter Sunday

  1. Sergei Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil – Troparion I and II: “Dnes spaseniye,” “Voskres iz groba” (This day of salvation, When you had risen)
  2. J.S. Bach: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 – “Preis und Dank” (Praise and thanks)
  3. Charles Villiers Stanford: Te Deum in B-flat
  4. Nico Muhly: “Let all the world in every corner sing”
  5. Adolphus Hailstork: Shout for Joy
  6. Anna Thorvaldsdottir: “Heyr þú oss himnum á” (Hear us in heaven)
  7. Vaughan Williams: “O man greatly beloved” from Dona Nobis Pacem
  8. G.F. Handel: “Worthy is the lamb… Amen” from Messiah

3 thoughts on “A Playlist for Holy Week 2.0

    1. Thanks, Hanan! (I have to give you credit for introducing me to Bach’s BWV 4. Still a favorite!) Things are going well. Hope you’re doing well, too!


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