Songs, Hymns and Music for Good Friday (29 March 2024)

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
The despised suffering one; 
You may like to repeat an Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) from Maundy Thursday.
  • Online Resource / TiS 356 / CH385 / Cha203 / StF273 Here hangs a man discarded (Brian Wren) Excellent words, particularly for this reading “Can such a clown of sorrows still bring a useful word where faith and love seem phantoms and every hope absurd?”. Also works very well with TiS 339 (Passion Chorale) if your congregation is scared of new tunes. Lyrics and sheet music. New words to old tunes.
  • Online Resource / TiS 345 / AHB 261 / AoV1-103 / NCH229 / UMH288 / VU144 / LBW81 / ELW353 / GA336 / A&M144 / HPP185 / GtG228 / PH102 / G(II)302 / GC416 / GC(II)438 / G(3)511 / CP192 / CP(E) 126 / W&R283 / Cha198 / 82Hml-172 / Lau225 / StF285 / MP745  Were you there when they crucified my Lord? (African-American traditional) A classic - well known, beautiful to sing and listen to. Lyrics and sheet music. And a youtube of Johnny CashOldy-but-a-goody.
  • Iona (TCTSN) / CH389 Behold the holy Lamb of God! (Malawi hymn) This will take some practice, I think. A song with a Cantor and response; you will need a small group to lead the congregation in the response. MWANA MWERERE. Lyrics.
  • Online Resource / Tune In A grain of wheat (Sheree Anderson) Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it won't form roots and grow. A boppy song with deeply meaningful lyrics.  Free downloadable songbook and sound samples.
  • Online Resource / Tune In In the shape of a cross (Dave Brown) A cry to God for help and a call for God to enter our world. Free downloadable songbook and sound samples.
  • Online Resource / Tune In See our God with the tear-streaked face / Our God who weeps (Kate Scull) Very simple folk tune and challenging and hopeful lyrics. Free downloadable songbook and sound samples.
  • Online Resource / O Christ, Lamb of God (Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan) A more modern Agnus Dei, with Christ sharing our weakness. Lyrics and sound sample.
  • Online Resource / Full of the Spirit When I carry the cross (Heather Price) A very singable song about how we are strengthened and strengthen each other through carrying each others crosses together. Sound sample and music for purchase.  
  • ACS927 Christ is the life of all that is (Susan Palo Cherwien) Excellent words of Christ as creation's birth, life and death. A lovely new tune by Kenneth Naylor too. Can also be sung to KINGSFOLD if your congregation needs something familiar. Sound sample
Psalm 22 
Crying out to God. A Psalm of suffering.
  • Emergent Psalter My god, my god (Isaac Everett) A simple refrain, and well-written spoken words for the Psalm itself. Piano music for refrain.
  • CH537 / AA147 / A&M572 / SP256 / StF717 We do not hope to ease our minds (Marnie Barrell) Excellent words of standing with the crucified Christ against injustice. A number of different tunes are offered. I do not have a copy of Alleluia Aotearoa which has two possible tunes. MARY MORISON is the tune in Church Hymnary 4, and it is very straightforward. Lyrics (downloads a pdf)
  • STB274 My God my God why why have you forsaken me? / Tuhanku Tuhanku, mengapa Kautingalkan aku (Fridolin Ukur / Francisco Feliciano) This can be sung either as a unison refrain, a tricky 4 part harmony chorale, or an even trickier chant with a solost (or reader). The words said by the reader, or sung by the cantor are quite challenging, and coming more from the perspective of poorer nations. This would be pretty amazing to do, and as there are many options, it's quite achievable. The refrain can be sung in English, Bahasa Indonesian, Pilipino, Mandarin or Thamilz.
  • STB189 Why have you forsaken me? (Bill Wallace) Quite formal and sorrowful words of Christ's sorrows, including his crucifixion and the death of Lazarus. Helpful. Set to a lovely Japanese melody - will need to be taught. Sheet music.
  • NCH192 / VU146 / SFFS 2106 / HPP183 / GtG194 / PH312 / Cha199 / 82Hml-715 When Jesus wept (William Billings) I like this simple round. Partly because it's by a Sacred Harp composer - William Billings! It's also very restful and beautiful. I quite like this video sound sample. This might be a good song for the musicians to sing during the offering, or in a prayer of confession.
  • Tune In / Online Resource / ATAR663 Save us in the time of trial (Shawn Whelan) Reflective chant-like chorus and verses. Free downloadable songbook and sound samples.
  • VU745 / PfAS022F In the presence of your people (Brent Chambers) This is a very well known song in our congregation, but usually sung as a very upbeat, slightly crazy celebration song, but I like the way these books suggest using just the lines "In the presence of your people I will praise your name" as a refrain for a responsively read version of this quite sad, but still hopeful Psalm (for verses 19-31 only, with the refrain sung after vs 22, 24, 28, and 31). I think this could work extremely well.  Sound sample.
  • MV073 / LBW320 / ELW703 / GC(II)570 / G(3)668 O God Why Are You Silent? (Marty Haugen) Excellent seeking words expressing grief and fear and the absence of God. Sung to the familiar PASSION CHORALE. Youtube. Lyrics, sample sheet music.New words to old tunes.
  • GtG210 / PH168 / PfAS022B Lord Why Have You Forsaken Me (Christopher Webber) Simple and honest lyrics. A paraphrase of the psalm to one of my favourite shape note tunes (DISTRESS). Sound sample.
  • VU744 / G(II)28 / GC29 / GC(II)22 / G(3)033 My God My God O why have you abandoned me? (Marty Haugen) Simple chant and good cantor lines. Chant lead sheet.
  • Online resource Why my God? (Bruce Harding) A lovely haunting round with an optional descant part. Free sheet music.
  • Iona (Common Ground) / VU704 / CP297 / StF612 God give us life (John Bell) Good words, to a fairly straightforward, but unfamiliar tune. This song is often suggested for funerals, but I think the reflection on the power of life over death is valuable for Good Friday also. Sheet music sample.
Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
God’s new covenant, our new confidence, Christ as high priest.
  • Online Resource / O Christ, Lamb of God (Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan) A more modern Agnus Dei, with Christ sharing our weakness. Lyrics and sound sample.
  • TiS 259 / Iona (Love From Below) Among us and before us Lord you stand (John Bell). Good words. The set tune (GATEHOUSE) will need to be taught. It can also be sung to SURSUM CORDA. Lyrics (downloads an order of service). New words to old tunes.
  • TIS 624 / W&R453 / StF492 Christ be my leader by night as by day (Timothy Dudley Smith) Excellent words of following Christ in times of struggle to a traditional Scottish melody. Lyrics New words to old tunes.
  • TiS 542 / STB082 Far beyond our mind's grasp (Francisco Feliciano) These beautiful devotional words are sung to a traditional Filipino tune. The tune is not easy, but is very haunting once you get to know it. If it is new to your congregation, it would be good to ask a soloist to sing it. STB has it in Pilipino as well as English.  Lyrics.
  • TiS 529 / AHB 598 By your priestly power O risen Lord (James McAuley) Formal and beautiful words. This would work well if some of the bread from Thursday remains on the communion table. The responsive chant could also be used on its own “By your priestly power O risen Lord, All we lost and needed is restored. God in our communion be adored. Sound sample.
  • GtG217 On a barren hilltop / Come Boldly (Christopher Webber) A song about atonement and victory over evil, to a familiar tune (KINGS'S WESTON). Maybe best sung by a soloist. Lyrics (downloads a PDF). New words to old tunes.
John 18:1-19:42
The long story of Jesus’ arrest, betrayal and crucifixion
  • BUC Songs His life for coin / Christ our Lord (David Stephens) This is a simple song written for Good Friday about 10 years ago at BUC, and we've been singing it again through Lent this year. 
  • BUC Resource We are humbled by your grace (David Stephens, Ian Ferguson, Saide Cameron) Some years ago, this song was written for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It is in our folders. 
  • Online Resource / Resounding Voices Cloaked in the dark (Jacque Jones / Bernadette Hoke) Words that take us on the journey from Jesus' ride into Jerusalem, through Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial, to the crucifixion. Set to a mournful and beautiful tune. This could be used for a single service, or throughout Holy Week. Sheet music sample and purchasing options. Free book download here. New words to old tunes.
  • Online Resource As evening fragrance fills the air (Mary Louise Bringle) Beautiful words reflecting on the women who bore witness to Jesus' anointing and death. Particularly apt for an evening service. Sheet music sample, lyrics and purchasing options.
  • Songs from the still strange land Empty empty I come empty to the bleeding Lord (Andrew Dutney) Thanks to Paul Walton for finding this simple and beautiful chant.
  • Iona (Common Ground, M&G, T1AU) / CH805 / MV151 / StJ / A&M412  / ELW741 / G(II)416 / GC592 / SP210 / URW440 / StF760 Your will be done on earth, O Lord / Mayenziwe 'ntando yakho (South African - Xhosa) This is a really good South African song, simple to sing, beautiful harmonies and would work well for reflection, sung slowly. Maybe it could even be sung in a minor key? Sound sample, lyrics, and sheet music sample. Good for kids.
  • Online Resource O Jesus who travelled (Hannah Brown / Sally Ann Morris) Following Jesus on the journey to the cross. If you choose to use this, I recommend using it also on Maundy Thursday (but it would also work if sung only at the Good Friday service. The tune is excellent and immediately singable. Beautiful. Lyrics, sheet music and sound sample, and purchasing options
  • Online Resource / Recorded Music Every single stone's a broken stone (Leigh Newton) A very moving song about Peter's denial; written in 2021! Sheet music, lyrics & sound sample. Sheet music.
  • FFS08 Broken the body (Shirley Murray). Good words of a broken body of Christ and a broken Church seeking healing, unity and courage. Lyrics & sheet music.
  • TiS 340 / AHB 256 Before the cock crew twice (Hallgrim Pjetursson) This storytelling song uses words from the 17th century. The tune is a little tricky, but it could work very well if sung by a soloist (even unaccompanied if you have a brave soloist!). Lyrics.
  • FFS70 What have we done to you? (Shirley Murray) Tricky tune. Would be good to have musicians present this the first time. Lyrics.
  • ATA 135 / VU132 Bitter was the night (Sydney Carter) Lyrics based on Peter's denial of Christ. Lyrics and sheet music
  • Online Resource  Watch and pray with me a while (Helen Wright) A lovely simple song, particularly appropriate for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Youtube and link to downloads.
  • Online resource I will drink the cup (Bruce Harding) A simple 4 part chant; best if you have all 4 parts - the tenor part rocks. Free sheet music.
  • Online Resource Jesus went out to a garden (Carolyn Winfrey-Gillette) Set to a standard hymn tune, this story-telling song asks good questions about the violence of the crucifixion and the God of peace. Available here.
  • Taizé / TiS 730 / AoV1-152 / ATOK 387 / CH775 / UMH488 / WoV740 / ELW616 / GA308 / A&M838 / HPP214 / GtG227 / PH599 / G(II)293 / GC404 / GC(II)422 / G(3)510 / W&R285 / Cha569 / Srce387 / URW382 / Lau253 / StF777 Jesus remember me (Jacques Berthier) A beautiful chant, but we have not sung it often. Sheet music and sound samples.
  • Online Resource / Full of the Spirit When I carry the cross (Heather Price) A very singable song about how we are strengthened and strengthen each other through carrying each others crosses together. Sound sample and music for purchase.   
  • Taizé / GA331 / GC421 / Lau233 All You Who Pass this Way (Jacques Berthier) Simple chant and cantored verses. Sound sample, lyrics and sample sheet music.
  • AoV2-048 See His Hands (Sandra Sears) Excellent. Simple. Crucifixion focus, but not morbid. Sound sample
  • Iona (Enemy of Apathy) / GA511 I walked through the lonely streets (John Bell) Contemporary reproaches. Very challenging words.
  • FFS79 Who will carry the cross for me? (Bill Bennett) Simple tune, and good questioning words about who will walk the hard road with Christ
  • ATA 171 Dying you destroyed our death (Rod Boucher) Simple chant for Good Friday.
  • Iona / VU153 / GA510 When the son of God was dying (John Bell) This song has lots of words, which I don't generally like during a more reflective service, but maybe you like that, and these words are quite good, and imagine well the scene of the crucifixion. Tune is pretty straightforward. Sheet music sample.
  • Online Resource / Recorded Music Cannot buy my soul (Kev Carmody) Not a congregational song, but a reflection on the sufferings of Aboriginal people in Australia - the final verse draws parallels with Jesus riding in on the donkey, and his death with integrity. Could be useful for reflection. Thanks to Claire Foley for suggesting this. Video. Lyrics and sound sample.
  • Recorded Music / AoVNG108 See Him (Keith Duke) Quiet reflective and challenging chant, would work well for a soloist. Also available in the book "Sacred Dance" Sound sample. Lyrics. Also available to purchase from iTunes if you would like to play a recording.
  • Online Resource / NCH192 / VU146 / SFFS 2106 / HPP183 / GtG194 / PH312 / Cha199 / 82Hml-715 When Jesus wept (William Billings) I like this simple round. Partly because it's by a Sacred Harp composer - William Billings! It's also very restful and beautiful. This might be a good song for the musicians to sing during the offering, or in a prayer of confession. Sheet music and sound samples.
  • VU610 / StJ / GC(II)572 / G(3)669 God remembers pain (Brian Wren) Pretty full on in the first verse, but these words seem somehow helpful if your congregation has been vulnerable this year. Lyrics and sheet music. Slightly odd sound sample.
  • Online Resource / WoV663 / ELW566 / GtG195 / PH547 / STB161 When Twilight Comes / Awit Sa Dapit Hapon (Moises Andrade) Beautiful words for Good Friday, and for evening. Uses the theme of the hen gathering her chicks. Unusual Asian tune, which is not too hard for Western ears. Sheet music sample, sound sample, and purchasing options.
  • TiS 341 / AHB 257 / NCH222 / CH399 / VU143 / A&M147 / WoV661 / LBW094 / ELW782 / SFFS 2083 / HPP329 / GtG209 / PH076 / CP184 / CP(E) 112 / Srce2-426 / 82Hml-458 / Lau752 / StF277 / MP478 My song is love unknown (Samuel Crossman) I really love this old and beautiful song. I prefer it sung to LOVE UNKNOWN. Lyrics. Oldy but a goody.
  • UMH257 / VU183 / PH311 / W&R616 / Cha183 We Meet You O Christ (Fred Kaan) I like the tune LIFE for this one, which provides a great message of Christ's crucifixion for justice in the world. Lyrics.
  • FFS21 Forgive us O God (Colin Gibson) Touching lyrics of the ways we have crucified Christ again, and the hope we have in Easter.
Adoration of the Cross
If this is a tradition in your congregation, here are some songs that could work well.
  • Online Resource You hold it all (The Porter's Gate) This very new song seems quite suitable for this part of the service, or perhaps during the offering (if you take an offering on Good Friday). Either way, it seems like a good song for Good Friday. Not really a congregational song, but good for a time of reflection, and it seems like it would be simple enough for your musicians to learn. Youtube.
  • Songs from the still strange land Empty empty I come empty to the bleeding Lord (Andrew Dutney) Thanks to Paul Walton for finding this simple and beautiful chant.
  • CH750 / Lau667 Adoramus te Domine Deus (Margaret Rizza) A fairly simple chant which would be good for an entire congregation to sing. Sound sample (Youtube).
  • GA305 / GC396 / GC(II)400 / RS542 / CP338 Adoramus Te Christe (Marty Haugen) It's really nice. Might be good to some musicians singing this quietly on Good Friday. The Refrain is a canon which could work on its own. Lyrics and sheet music sample. Sound sample (maybe a little energetic for my liking).
  • Unusual Source Your faithfulness (Monique Lisbon and Sandy Jones) From the out-of-print book "Scars of Grace", this reflective song would be best sung by a soloist, with simple accompaniment, and probably some instrumental music, if you'd rather not have a congregational chant. BUC people, there is a copy of this in our Liturgy Library.  
  • Taizé / URW389 / Lau757 O Christe domine Jesu (Jacques Berthier) The very simplest, and best known song for this purpose. Very simple, haunting chant. Cantor verses over the top add more beauty, but are not neccessary. Sheet music and lyrics.
  • GA329 O my people what have I done? (Damian Lundy) This song is pretty incredible. The tune is very straightforward, but I'm not sure how you would use it. It's really about the veneration of the cross and Christ's suffering. Not a very popular theme, but important and I think this would work well if you choose to focus on that. Sound sample.
  • Recorded Music Scars (Malcolm Gordon) I find this song quite challenging. I struggle with the idea of glorifying suffering, but this recognition of the beauty of Christ's scars will be helpful to many. Sound sample and purchase options
  • CH390 Open are the gifts of God (William Vanstone) Older style lyrics, that say a lot about the gift of a love that gives and gives and gives and gives. Sung to a traditional older tune (SONG 13). Sound samples.
  • CH386 Lifted high on your cross (Ian Cowie) The tune seems a little too jolly for these words, which move beyond the sorry of Good Friday and point to healing and recreation. The tune  may be known by your congregation (PULLING BRACKEN). I guess you would just play it slowly. Sound sample.
  • Recorded music A Love Supreme (John Coltrane) Since I first heard it, I have thought that it would be awesome to play this suite while people reflect on the cross. Or, since it's 30 minutes long, just Part 1 (Acknowledgement) which is almost 8 minutes long, and includes Coltrane chanting the words "A love supreme". You need a congregation that likes this type of music, or at least, is willing to listen to it thoughtfully. Youtube with the entire suite. And just as I was thinking "Man, that seems like something that St. John the Divine in NYC would do" I found this... sigh... Just look at the service!
  • GtG217 On a barren hilltop / Come Boldly (Christopher Webber) A song about atonement and victory over evil, to a familiar tune (KINGS'S WESTON). Maybe best sung by a soloist in this context. Lyrics (downloads a PDF). New words to old tunes.
  • ATOK 335 You rode into Jerus'lem (Newton) Excellent words - not so much a congregational song, but a story-telling song that could be used as a reflection on Good Friday or Passion Sunday. I love how it puts us in the crowd watching and participating emotionally in the events of Holy Week. Sound sample.
  • StF282 Stay here where nails are driven (Alan Gaunt) Good Friday Strong sorrowful words of the crucifixion, sung to the familiar tune SHRUB END. Sound sample (tune only). New words to old tunes.
  • Online Resource / VU359 / AA059 / W&R454 / STB205 He came singing love (Colin Gibson) Excellent imagery of the silence of Good Friday, and the call for us to follow - it includes resurrection, so if you are really keeping focussed on Good Friday, you may wish to save this for Easter Sunday. I really like this song. Thanks to Craig Miller for suggesting I include it! Sheet music and lyrics.
What will you be singing? Please add a comment below.


Sean Meade said...

A few thoughts:
O Sacred Head
Ah Holy Jesus
The Death of a Son (Michael Card)
The Wonderful Cross (Chris Tomlin)
And Can It Be (Amazing Love)

Cynthia said...

Hi Natalie,
Thanks so much for your blog. Are you able to please explain how VU have used 'In the presence of your people' with Psalm 22? I would like to do this but don't really get it and don't own VU. Thanks Cynthia Page

Lectionary Singer (Natalie Sims) said...

Sean, thanks for adding these ideas; I'm looking forward to checking some of these songs out.

Cynthia, I'll check VU tonight and post some detailed comments! Best, Natalie

Sean Meade said...

Thanks, Natalie! I hope you like them and can leave a comment regarding your opinion at any rate. :-)

Linda said...

Thanks so much for the link to St John the Divine music - just what I needed...

Denise F. said...

Hi Natalie, I'm looking for Good Friday hymns that speak to the abandonment many are feeling in this time of separation and crisis. Who even knows what the next week will bring? My eye landed on O God, Why Are You Silent. Might just be right. However your page reference for ELW should be #703.
Keep well!

Judy B. said...

I have been using an old hymn, O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile which I discovered quite by accident several years ago.

Craig Miller said...

"He Came Singing Love" by Colin Gibson is a favourite of our community of faith on Good Friday. It's in Voices United 359

Shelley W. said...

A regular Good Friday hymn for our congregation is the Iona (Enemy of Apathy) offering "Lord Jesus Christ, shall I stand still" which we usually sing to 'Rockingham'. For me, it speaks of accepting the challenge of the Cross: "Make me the who, and you the why. Your way the how, and now the when."