Jesus is Alive! (Mark and Helen Johnson)

This article first appeared in the April 2015 issue of our parish magazine.

This is probably the hardest song I have taught the Children’s Choir during Sunday School singing practice, for three reasons:

  1. There are many difficult words in the text, especially as some of the children are preschoolers, and others are in Key Stage 1 (the “infants”). Decoding this – or indeed any – text at singing speed is at best challenging, and at times impossible;
  2. Musically, the range (distance between the highest and lowest notes in the song) is greater than in most children’s songs; and
  3. The lyricist was brutal in retelling the Easter story. There are no fluffy bunnies or chocolate eggs here. The verses contain only human cruelty, confusion and despair.

Cleverly, there is contrast in the chorus. Here, our Lord’s resurrection and ascension are celebrated loud and proud. Here is the full text of the song:

  • Outside the city, away from it all,
  • Jesus was taken to die.
  • Sentenced to death like the worst criminal
  • Though he’d committed no crime.
  • Darkness came over the whole of the land,
  • Even the sun didn’t shine.
  • Surely this Jesus was more than a man,
  • This was no ordinary time.
  • Chorus:
  • But Jesus is alive!
  • The one they crucified,
  • He showed that He is Christ the Lord.
  • He did just what He said,
  • He rose up from the dead,
  • And now He lives for evermore.
  • Who can imagine the terrible cost?
  • Who can imagine the pain?
  • Jesus was beaten and hung on a cross,
  • Buried and left in a grave.
  • All His disciples and all of His friends
  • Feeling confused or betrayed,
  • Where was the hope that He’d give the to them?
  • Why was He taken away?
  • Chorus
  • Mary went early to visit the tomb,
  • Hurried to where Jesus lay.
  • Met with an angel who gave her the news,
  • Told her ‘do not be afraid’:
  • Chorus x2

I discovered this song just prior to Lent 2014, and was at first dubious about teaching such a tough song to such young children. With the encouragement of the Sunday School teachers I made a start, taking care to explain the words and Easter story. This was hard for me, because as all choir leaders know, music has to be learned unseasonably early if it is to be ready on time. The children took to the song quickly and enjoyed singing it. They understood the meaning and the contrast between verses and chorus. But there was a problem. There just didn’t seem to be an appropriate Parade Sunday on which to offer it to the congregation. I am grateful to Laurel for her determination not to let a good song go unheard. One ‘regular’ Sunday she cleared it with the Wardens for me to set up our audio equipment during the service, and the children sang it during communion, after receiving their blessing. It was an enormous success, and fitted well with the service we had interrupted.

“Jesus is Alive!” will be rehearsed again this year, during Lent. Hopefully you’ll get to hear it again, but at this stage I’ve no idea when that will be.

A very happy Easter to all, and remember, Jesus is alive!

Carol P

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