Many churches plan Tenebrae (“shadows”) services during Holy Week. The pattern for a Tenebrae service is a series of Scripture readings and songs that focus on the suffering and death of Jesus, each section followed by the extinguishing of a candle until the worship space is left in darkness. Tenebrae services have been observed in the Christian church since the fourth century, most often on Good Friday but sometimes on Maundy Thursday.
Mary Louise Bringle wrote the text “Shadows Lengthen into Night” specifically for a Tenebrae service. Each stanza relates to a specific passage of Scripture. The congregation sings each stanza prior to a Scripture reading and the extinguishing of a candle. The stanzas are based on the following passages:
St. 1: Shadow of Betrayal (Matt. 26:20-25)
St. 2: Shadow of Impending Faithlessness (Matt. 26:31, 33-35)
St. 3: Shadow of Unshared Vigil (Matt. 26:36-41)
St. 4: Shadow of Christ’s Agony (Matt. 26:42-45)
St. 5: Shadow of Arrest (Matt. 26:47-50)
St. 6: Shadow of Desertion (Mark 14:48-50)
St. 7: Shadow of Denial (Luke 22:54-62)
St. 8: Shadow of the Cross (Luke 23:33-34, 44-46)
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 86)
Shadows Lengthen into Night
When asked about the origin of this hymn, Mary Louise Bringle writes:
In 2006, composer Larry Harris asked me to write a text with a one-line refrain to be used in a Tenebrae service, in which the congregation would sing each of the text’s stanzas immediately before or after a paired scripture reading, followed by the extinguishing of a candle. He suggested an array of appropriate scriptures, compiled by Kent Keller, a Presbyterian minister in Colorado, which I modified slightly to arrive at the following “acts” in the unfolding drama: The Shadow of Betrayal, The Shadow of Impending Faithlessness, The Shadow of Unshared Vigil, The Shadow of Christ’s Agony, The Shadow of Arrest, The Shadow of Desertion, The Shadow of Denial, The Shadow of the Cross.
Sally Ann Morris, who at the time was serving as musician for a Roman Catholic congregation in Greensboro, NC, wrote a new musical setting for the words, and also asked for an alternate set of stanzas that could be used with the traditional Lenten readings from the book of Lamentations.
It should be noted that this hymn was never intended to be sung “straight through.” Rather, the stanzas need to be separated from one another by significant pauses for readings and/or silent reflection.
This is one of the few texts I have written “words first.” When Larry Harris asked for the original text, I asked him at least to propose a meter. He suggested 184.108.40.206, which is the meter of Thomas Troeger’s powerful text on the Stations of the Cross, “Kneeling in the Garden Grass” (set by William Rowan to a tune called VIA CRUCIS). “Shadows Lengthen” is more often published now with the tune Sally Morris later wrote for it.
Mary Louise Bringle
Mary Louise (Mel) Bringle (b. 1953) is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and chair of the Humanities Division at Brevard College (Brevard, NC). A teacher at heart and a theologian by training (with a Ph.D. from Emory University and an assortment of publications in pastoral theology), she began writing hymn texts in 1999. Since that time, she has won a number of international hymnwriting competitions. GIA Publications, Inc. has published two single-author collections of her hymns (Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing in 2002, and In Wind and Wonder in 2007), as well as anthems written in collaboration with composers like William Rowan, Sally Morris, and others. Her texts and translations are included in publications from numerous denominations, including Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopalian, United Church of Canada, and Church of Scotland. She served as President of The Hymn Society and was chair of the committee that prepared Glory to God, the 2013 hymnal for the Presbyterian Church USA.
GIA Publications, Inc. (http://www.giamusic.com)
Sally Ann Morris (b. North Carolina, September 16, 1952) lives and works in North Carolina. In 1990, she discovered the joy of composing hymn tunes, and since that time has written about 100, most of which appear in two collections from GIA Publications, Giving Thanks in Song and Prayer (1998) and …to sing the Artist’s praise…(2009). Her tunes appear in Gather Comprehensive II, Gather III, Worship IV, the New Century Hymnal of the United Church of Christ, The Hymnal 21 in Japan, the 2005 Church Hymnary 4 of the Church of Scotland and in other current and forthcoming denominational hymnals, collections, supplements and recordings. Other publications include choral anthems also from GIA Publications, Inc., and also by E.C. Schirmer and The Pilgrim Press. She appears frequently as a clinician, composer, cantor and conductor in churches nationwide, and at national conferences including The Presbyterian Association of Musicians Worship and Music Conferences at Montreat, NC, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. She is the recipient of the 2009 Sam Ragan Award for contributions to the Fine Arts in North Carolina and the 2011 Henry Grady Miller Cup for Choral Composition awarded by the NC Federation of Music Clubs. Sally serves as Director of Music Ministries at Parkway Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, NC and as Chapel Musician for the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
Sally Ann Morris
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