Please turn to number 98 (First Tune) and join with the clarinets in “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”.
First Line: Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands
Name: CHRIST LAG IN TODESBANDEN.
Meter: 8 7, 8 7, 7 8, 7 4.
Music: Geistliches Gesangbuchlein, Wittenberg, 1524
Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546
Based on the Sequence Victimae Paschali
Tr. Richard Massie, 1800-87
Clarinet Arrangement: 098a-ChristJesusLayInDeathsStrongBands
Well, it doesn’t get any more ‘Lutheran’ than an Easter hymn written by Martin Luther.
Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands
For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand he stands
And brings us life from heaven.
Wherefore let us joyful be
And sing to God right thankfully
Loud sons of alleluia!
It was a strange and dreadful strife
When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life,
The reign of death was ended.
Stripped of power, no more he reigns,
An empty form alone remains;
His sting is lost forever!
So let us keep the festival
Whereto the Lord invites us;
Christ is himself the joy of all,
The sun that warms and lights us.
By his grace he doth impart
Eternal sunshine to the heart;
The night of sin is ended.
Then let us feast this Easter Day
On Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace hath purged away
The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our meat and drink indeed;
Faith lives upon no other!
No, really, it doesn’t get much more Lutheran than this!!
CHRIST LAG IN TODESBANDEN is an adaptation of a medieval chant used for “Victimae Paschali laudes” (the same chant is the source for CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN, 407). The tune’s arrangement is credited to Johann Walther (b. Kahla, Thuringia, Germany, 1496: d. Torgau, Germany, 1570), in whose 1524 Geystliche Gesangk Buchleyn it was first published. But it is possible that Luther also had a hand in its arrangement.
Walther was one of the great early influences in Lutheran church music. At first he seemed destined to be primarily a court musician. A singer in the choir of the Elector of Saxony in the Torgau court in 1521, he became the court’s music director in 1525. After the court orchestra was disbanded in 1530 and reconstituted by the town, Walther became cantor at the local school in 1534 and directed the music in several churches. He served the Elector of Saxony at the Dresden court from 1548 to 1554 and then retired in Torgau.
Walther met Martin Luther in 1525 and lived with him for three weeks to help in the preparation of Luther’s German Mass. In 1524 Walther published the first edition of a collection of German hymns, Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn. This collection and several later hymnals compiled by Walther went through many later editions and made a permanent impact on Lutheran hymnody.
One of the earliest and best-known Lutheran chorales, CHRIST LAG IN TODESBANDEN is a magnificent tune in rounded bar form (AABA) with vigor and lightness characteristic of Easter carols. Many organ compositions are based on this tune; Johann S. Bach (PHH 7) incorporated it extensively in his cantatas 4 and 158.
–Psalter Hymnal Handbook