Next week, over 2.3 billion people around the world—in over 200 nations and on every continent—will gather to sing about and worship a first-century Galilean peasant who was executed along with two thieves in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.
From cathedrals in Chile to house churches in China, from Korean megachurches to tiny congregations in the Yukon, believers of every conceivable background will gather to confess a singular creed: the lowly Jesus of Nazareth was in fact God in the flesh, he defied the laws of nature and rose from the dead, and he offers eternal life to all who confess him as their Lord and Savior.
If the rituals of Easter are too familiar to us, we might not be shocked reading the above paragraphs. But strip away the pastel festivities and we’re confronted with the wild reality of what Christianity is and how for 2,000 years it has reached farther and shaped more than anything else in history. In a season of chocolate eggs and gelatinous yellow bunnies, we can easily miss the mind-blowing wonder—and cosmic consequences—of what transpired that week, two millennia ago.
In a season of chocolate eggs and gelatinous yellow bunnies, we can easily miss the mind-blowing wonder—and cosmic consequences—of what transpired that week, two millennia ago.
Music can help remind us. Indeed, for 2,000 years, music has been central to Christian congregational worship. Among the benefits of music in worship is its power to inculcate the truth of our confession—not only in our minds but also in our bodies, tuning our hearts to sing God’s praise. As we enter this significant week in the Christian calendar, music can reenchant us to the unprecedented beauty and cosmic scope of what Easter means.
To that end, I put together this list of music resources, including a newly curated playlist, to aid your devotional experience of Holy Week and Easter.
75-Song Holy Week Playlist
This new playlist follows the ups and downs of Holy Week’s many significant moments—from the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday to the Upper Room and Gethsemane on Maundy Thursday, Golgotha on Good Friday, the grief and tension of Silent Saturday, and the gloriously empty tomb of Easter Sunday.
To reflect the fact that Easter is a truly global holiday—and Jesus a Savior confessed by people of every nation—more than a third of the songs on this playlist are from non-American artists.
Find the playlist on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.
Getty Music, ‘25 Essential Easter Hymns’
The Gettys’ modern hymns have become mainstays in the year-round worship of churches globally, but some of their best-known songs are especially popular on Easter Sunday (e.g., “In Christ Alone”). For 2023, Getty Music put together a “25 Essential Easter Hymns” collection, which includes their brand-new hymn, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (featuring Laura Story). Stream or download the Easter Hymnal.
Shane & Shane, ‘You’ve Already Won’ and ‘All Sufficient Merit’
In this TGC-exclusive acoustic set, Shane & Shane perform two songs from their recently released album, Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (Live): “You’ve Already Won” and “All Sufficient Merit.” Watch them perform the songs below and check out the full album.
Poor Bishop Hooper, The Golgotha Experience
Before they completed the three-year EveryPsalm project, Jesse and Leah Roberts (Poor Bishop Hooper) created the sprawling Golgotha Experience in 2014. The 14 Scripture-based original songs in the project are essentially a musical riff on the visual art tradition of the Stations of the Cross. You can listen to the songs on their website or watch an hour-long performance of the full experience below.
Aaron and Emma Falconer, Come and Know Me
Recorded in Dallas, Texas, Come and Know Me is a 35-minute piece from New Zealand artists Aaron and Emma Falconer. The eight songs, interspersed with Scripture readings, present a theological narrative of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and invite listeners to respond. Watch the whole performance below and visit their website to learn more.
6 Musical ‘Passions’ Beyond Bach
For classical music fans, this is a great Easter resource compiled by Josh Rodriguez, assistant professor of music theory and composition at the Collinsworth School of Performing Arts at California Baptist University. “When people think of musical Passions today, they probably think of Lutheran composer Johann Sebastian Bach, whose musical works are the gold standard for Western religious art,” Rodriguez writes. “But these aural feasts from the 18th century are not the only ones worth incorporating into your Easter celebrations.” In his article, you can learn about six contemporary Passions (or passion-themed works) created in recent years from a diverse array of composers like Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina), Sofia Gubaidulina (Russia), and James MacMillan (Scotland).
Brett McCracken will lead a microevent on “Make Theologically Rich Worship Music Great Again: A Conversation with CityAlight” at TGC’s 2023 Conference, September 25–27, in Indianapolis. You can browse the complete list of topics and speakers. Register soon!