People of the Light

People of the Light

See below for a track listing, introduction, lyrics and credits.

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Track list

  1. Advent Song 04:04
  2. Introit 02:15
  3. This is why 04:05
  4. God is with us 03:35
  5. Go to dark Gethsemane 03:35
  6. Easter Snow – Instrumental: The Third Day 01:27
  7. Prologue: The Third Day 01:21
  8. Do you remember? The Third Day 04:18
  9. Judas: The Third Day 02:17
  10. Pieta: The Third Day 03:15
  11. He descended to the dead: The Third Day 03:34
  12. Early in the morning: The Third Day 02:56
  13. The Angels 00:37
  14. Did you hear the angels? The Third Day 01:52
  15. The locked room: The Third Day 07:23
  16. The Great Commission: The Third Day 01:30
  17. Finale: The Third Day 03:50
  18. The Early Morning Set – Instrumental 07:16
  19. Such love 05:12
  20. Magnificat 07:03
  21. Nunc dimittis 03:07
  22. Blessing 03:50


MP3 Sound file samples

Click the links below to hear a short mp3 sample of some tracks from the CD.

(Press BackSpace to return to the page after listening to the sample)

3 — This is why

10 — Pieta: The Third Day

11 —He Descended to the Dead: The Third Day

18 — The Early Morning Set

20 — Magnificat

22 — Blessing


Composer’s Comments

For nearly 20 years I have been director of music at a small Anglican parish in Khandallah, Wellington. I have played for them, written music for them, prayed with them, and occasionally preached to them.

There’s not a lot of cultural prestige attached to church music these days. I suppose the major cathedrals have a certain reputation to keep up, and the megachurches are serious big business. But why should I find this modest suburban congregation such a compelling environment in which to make music?

First of all, church is one of the few places left where ordinary people – people who don’t consider themselves musicians – are still expected to sing, as a matter of course. And just as cooking is far too important to be left to professional chefs, I believe singing is far too important to be left to singers. Secondly, church is a place where people, also as a matter of course, wrestle with and reflect upon deep things: life and death, good and evil, justice and mercy. To enter church is to join a conversation that has been going on about these things for a few thousand years now. Even the most obscure, muddy, silted-up inlet opens out on a vast sea of faith, practice, thought and artistic activity. If I wasn’t a believer, I think I might well have pretended…

In part, Guy Jansen established the Festival Singers to make churches more aware of this mighty ocean: to introduce them to music they would not otherwise have heard. My own involvement with the choir goes back to around 1990; first as a singer, then as accompanist (1999–2013), and now as conductor. Thanks are due in particular to an earlier conductor, Rosemary Russell, who gave me the opportunity to write for the choir; first, a Te Deum (available on our CD Spirited People), then, in 2009, The Third Day, which makes up much of this CD.

The Third Day has a wide stylistic range, from the recitative-like ‘plainsong’ of the prologue to the heavy metal guitars of the ‘strange and dreadful strife.’ This latter movement, for all its noisiness, is built on a very old-fashioned plan: it is effectively a chorale prelude on Christ lag in Todesbanden, a chorale Bach himself set several times. The Pietà (a genre of painting that depicts Mary cradling the dead Christ) has a gentle siciliano rhythm, used to express sadness since the time of Baroque opera. The instrumental melody of the Finale is a polska (not polka), a Scandinavian dance related to the polonaise – a happy coincidence, as the words of this movement are translated from the Danish.

The arrangement of the rest of the CD follows roughly that of the church year: from Advent through Christmas through Passiontide and Easter and beyond, circling around to Advent again with the Magnificat. Most of this music has been intended for particular occasions, and therefore written to deadlines: during a Christmas party before midnight mass; in the car on the way to a family gathering; sections of The Third Day rolled out just in time for rehearsals. But it is my hope that these tunes might transcend the circumstances in which they were written, and speak to any who will hear them.

Jonathan Berkahn
Composer and Musical Director October 2015 


Advent Song
Advent 2010

From the black stump comes the green leaf;
from the hard rock comes the water;
from the dark night comes the new day;
from the silence comes the word:

And so we watch,
and so we hope,
and so we wait.

From the old bones comes the new hope;
from the desert comes the prophet;
from the dry sand comes the garden;
from the virgin comes the child

Advent 2008

Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord:
Hosanna in the highest!

Prepare the way of the Lord:
make ready for his coming.
Prepare the way of the Lord:
His glory is at hand!

Behold the Lamb of God:
Redeemer of his people.
Behold the Lamb of God
now given for us all.

This is why
Christmas Eve 2010

To heal the ancient wound,
to fulfil the ancient promise,
to restore us to our only God:
for this you came; for this you came.

To wear a human face
and to share our human sorrows,
walking with us on our stony road:
for this you came; for this you came.

This is why the angels sing,
why the shepherds stand in awe;
this is why we join the song
of the saints who came before:
Glory! Glory in the highest heaven!
Glory! Glory in the highest heaven!

To raise a fallen race,
to redeem a scattered people,
bringing hope to those in deep despair:
for this you came; for this you came.

To shine upon our night
with the light that will not fail us,
and to show us what our lives might be:
for this you came; for this you came.

God is with us
for Manu, 21 August 2004

God is with us, God is with us,
God is with us in this place.
God is with us, God is with us,
in his mercy and his grace.

He will never leave you,
never forsake you,
never give you up for lost;
in your darkest night,
in your deepest confusion,
he never will abandon hope.

Go to dark Gethsemane
Text: James Montgomery, 1820

Go to dark Gethsemane,
ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see,
watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away:
learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

Follow to the judgement hall,
view the Lord of Life arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss:
learn of Christ to bear the cross.

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb;
there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry:
learn of Jesus Christ to die.

The Third Day

Easter Snow – Instrumental
Irish traditional: Jimmy Fallon, 19th century


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: the same was in the beginning as God.

All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.

In him was life, and the life was the light of the world.

The light shines in the darkness: and the darkness has never understood it.

Do you remember?

Do you remember when he came,
when he came and dwelt among us?
He came and lived as one of us:
Do you remember?

Do you remember the day
the sky turned black?
Do you remember the way
they cursed and spat?
Do you remember the way
they tied him up
and flogged the very skin
from off his back?

Do you remember,
they shouted ‘Crucify?’
Do you remember,
they nailed him up on high?
Do you remember the way
they pierced his side
and left him hanging there
to bleed and die.

Do you remember when he spoke
words of hope and words of mercy,
he spoke of heaven near at hand:
Do you remember?

Do you remember when he walked,
how the people always followed,
and he would heal, and he would bless:
Do you remember?


What have I done? What have I done?
I betrayed one who loved me;
betrayed the one I followed
to the people who despised me.
I betrayed him with a kiss:
What have I done? What have I done?

Thirty silver coins they gave me:
I threw it in their faces
when I saw what this had come to,
but they laughed and threw it back:
What have I done? What have I done?

Could he forgive?
Could even he forgive,
as he forgave the soldiers
and the dying thief?
But he is gone: but he is gone,
and who’ll forgive me now?
It is over. It is done. It is finished.


Gently, gently, lift him,
take him from the cross.
Close his eyes, wash his limbs,
lay him in the ground.

Gently, gently, lift him,
take him from the cross.
We who could not save him
tend the body of him we loved.

‘I carried him as a child:
and now I carry him once again.’
‘In swaddling bands I wrapped him:
and now I bind his limbs once more

He descended to the dead
From Christ lag in Todesbanden, Martin Luther (1483–1546), tr. R. Massie.

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 it reigns,
An empty form alone remains
Death’s sting is lost forever! Alleluia!

For Jesus Christ, God’s only Son,
To our low state descended,
The cause of Death He has undone,
His power forever ended,
Ruined all his right and claim
And left him nothing but the name,
His sting is lost forever. Alleluia!

Early in the morning

It was early in the morning,
just as the day was dawning,
we gathered in the dark
beside the place where Jesus lay.
There was nothing we could do,
for all his suffering was through,
but still we wanted to be near him
so we met there anyway.
We shed our bitter tears
and talked of all our fears:
what were we to do now
that our hope was dead and gone?
Was it all a foolish dream:
we really thought
he could redeem the world—
without him, how can we carry on?
You saw the way that he saved others:
why couldn’t Jesus save himself?
But he let himself be broken
by the hatred he had woken,
and left us here in sorrow all alone.

The stone is gone! It’s rolled away!
the tomb is empty—
who can tell me,
who can tell me what this means?
The stone is gone! It’s rolled away!
the tomb is empty—
is there anyone can show my Lord to me?

The Angels

He is not here.
He is not here.
He is risen from the dead
in the in the way that he said:
Why seek ye the living among the dead?

Did you hear the angels?
Verse from ‘O filii et filiae’: J. Tisserand (d.1494), tr. J. M. Neale

Well did you hear the angels say:
‘Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!’
And did you hear the angels say:
‘Do not be afraid.’
Oh did you hear the angels say:
‘You will not find him here:
Why seek ye the living among the dead?
He is alive! He is alive!
Why seek ye the living among the dead?’That Easter morn at break of day,
the faithful women went their way
to the place where Jesus lay.
An angel clad in white they see
who sat and spoke unto the three:
‘He is gone to Galilee.’
That night the apostles met in fear;
amidst them came their Lord most dear
and said: ‘My peace upon you here.’

The locked room

It was dark. The night was cold.
The doors were locked.
We were afraid of the people
who had killed our Lord.
And were confused by the stories that the women brought of an empty tomb.
Then he was with us,
then he was with us in the room.
We saw his hands, we saw his feet,
and then we heard the words he spoke:

‘Peace, my peace be upon you; peace, my peace with you all.’

We have seen him;
we have seen the Lord,
we have seen the one who died!
We have seen the wounds he bore for us,
his hands, his feet, his side.
We have seen him;
we have known his face,
we have heard the words he said,
for the one we buried in the tomb
has come back from the dead.
Christ is risen: he is risen indeed:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

(Two from Emmaus)
On a weary road we travelled,
talking of the things we’d seen,
thinking of our grief and sorrow,
wondering what it all could mean.
Then we saw him walking with us
as the night was drawing on,
suddenly we knew him;
then we looked and he was gone.
And our hearts were set on fire
by the words that he had said
but we only knew him
in the breaking of the bread.
We have seen him;
we have seen the Lord…

‘I hear the words you say,
the stories that you tell,
I wish, I really wish I could believe as well:
I haven’t seen the things that you have seen.’

We have seen him;
we have seen the Lord…

‘I will not fool myself
the way I think you do.
I know the dead don’t walk:
I’ll never think it true
unless I touch him
with my own two hands.’

‘Thomas, my peace be upon you:
do you see it is I?
Will you see the wounds I bore for you,
my hands, my feet, my side?’
‘My Lord. My God. My Master.’

Christ is risen: he is risen indeed…

The Great Commission

‘All authority in heaven and earth
has been given me.’

In him was life,
and the life was the light of the world.

‘So go and tell what you have seen.
Go and teach the things that I have taught,
make disciples of all nations,
baptising in my name,
and know that I am with you
to the end of the age.’

The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has never overcome it.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it.

from ‘Som den gyldne Sol frembryder’
Thomas H. Kingo (1634–1703) tr. G. A. Rygh

Like the golden sun ascending,
Breaking through the gloom of night,
On the earth His glory spending
So that darkness takes to flight,
Thus my Jesus from the grave
And death’s dismal, dreadful cave
Rose triumphant Easter morning
At the early dawning.

Thanks to Thee, O Christ victorious!
Thanks to Thee, O Lord of Life!
Death hath now no power o’er us,
Thou hast conquered in the strife.
Thanks because Thou didst arise
And hast opened Paradise!
None can fully sing the glory
Of this wondrous story.

Though I be by sin o’ertaken,
Though I lie in helplessness,
Though I be by friends forsaken
And must suffer sore distress,
Though I be despised, contemned,
And by all the world condemned,
Though the dark grave yawn before me,
Yet the light of hope shines o’er me.

Thanks to Thee, O Christ victorious!
Thanks to Thee, O Lord of Life!
Death hath now no power o’er us,
Thou hast conquered in the strife.

Christ is risen: he is risen indeed:
Alleluia! Alleluia!

The Early Morning Set – Instrumental

• Early morning waltz
• The maid behind the desk
• New Year’s reel

Such love
1 John 3:1–2, 16–18

How much love we have been given,
how much love we have received:
that we should be called
the children of God,
the children of God.

How much love we have been given,
how much love we have received:
that we should be called the sons
and the daughters of the living God.

We are children of the living God;
what we will be no-one’s ever seen.
But we know that when our Lord
appears we will be like him,
and see him as he is.

This is how we know what love is;
Jesus gave his very life for us.
So we give ourselves
and pour our lives out
for our sisters and brothers as he did.

Can we say that love is in our hearts
if we see the need and walk on by?
Let us love not with our words,
our talk, but in our actions,
and everything we do.

Commissioned by the Northern Chorale, 2011

Magnificat anima mea Dominum,
Magnificat anima mea Dominum…

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
for he has regarded the lowliness of his servant.

Et exultavit spiritus meus
in Deo salutari meo.

For behold, from this day
all generations will call me blessed.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
for he that is mighty
has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.

My soul magnifies the Lord:

and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.
He has shown the strength of his arm;
he has scattered the proud
in their arrogance of heart.
He has thrown down the mighty
from their seats,
and exalted the humble and meek.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich empty away.

Remembering his mercy
he has helped his servant Israel,
as he promised to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Remembering his mercy;
remembering his promise.

Glory, glory glory to the Father;
Glory, glory glory to the Son;
Glory, glory glory to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning is now,
and ever shall be, Amen.

Nunc dimittis

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant
depart in peace according to thy word.

For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared
before the face of all people
to be a light to lighten the Gentiles
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost,
as it was in the beginning
is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

Largely taken from Psalm 27.
For Monty and Hilary on their last Sunday at Onslow Anglicans, 3 February 2013

The Lord will be your light
and your salvation:
whom then shall you fear?
The Lord will be a stronghold
in your time of trial,
a shelter in the storm.

He has called you forth
and he will bring you safely home,
bring you safely home.

The Lord will keep beside you
as you journey, wherever you go,
and he will never
turn away his face from you,
the child he has made.

And you shall dwell
forever in his presence,
within his courts,
and you will see the beauty of his holiness
and look upon his face.




Jonathan Berkahn: piano, accordion
Bernard Wells: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, flute
Adam Meers: electric guitar
Vorn Colgan: bass
Reuben Jelleyman: percussion
Thomas Nikora: piano
Oscar West: fiddle (10, 15, 17, 18)
Nobuko Komatsu: violin (19)
Kim New: violin (19)
Megan Ward: viola (19), recorder (4)
Hajime Komatsu: cello (1, 19)
Samuel Berkahn: cello (1)
Karen Espersen: recorder (4)
Brenda Vale: recorder (4)

Sharon Yearsley: Soprano (20, 21)
Lydia McDonnell : Soprano (4, 14)
Nino Raphael: Bass (5, Jesus: 15,16)
Luka Venter: Tenor (Judas: 9)
Joe Fecteau: Tenor (Thomas: 15)



Katrina Brougham
Heather Garside
Sylvia Gentry
Barbara Gillon
Rozie Gorman
Diana Helen
Carol Inge
Emma Kaloay
Anne Keen
Ailsa Lipscombe
Lydia McDonnell
Grace McIntyre
Kim New
Pam Southey
Christine Taylor
Brenda Vale
Sharon Yearsley


Rosemary Biss
Heather Collins
Heather Easting
Karen Espersen
Adrienne Leuchars
Wendy Nelson
Margaret Pearson
Ingrid Schoenfeld
Margaret Seconi
Irene Swadling
Rita Urry
Megan Ward


Samuel Berkahn
Joe Fecteau
Paul Kilford
Hajime Komatsu
Nathan Parry
Alan Spinks


Dion Church
Alexander Garside
Philip Garside
Bill Gebbie
Ian Livingstone
Brian Patchett
Chris Watson


Musical Director and Producer: Jonathan Berkahn
Recording and Mastering: Phil Riley

CD Cover and Insert photographs: Alexander Garside – Garside Imaging
Cover photo location: Otari-Wilton’s Bush, Wellington
CD Booklet photographs: Bernard Wells
CD Cover/Booklet/Insert Design: Philip Garside

CD Production & Duplication: AMStore Ltd, Wellington

Recorded at:
Island Bay Presbyterian Church, Wellington: 4, 5 &19 September 2015, and Life of Riley Studio: 11, 21 & 30 September, 7 October

© Copyright 2015 Festivity Productions Ltd
c/- PO Box 17160, Karori, Wellington 6147.

Composer: Jonathan Berkahn
All tracks recorded with composer’s permission.
All rights reserved
all rights reserved


The following review by Jill Meredith appeared in Touchstone May 2016

“Since its inception in 1976 with Guy Jansen as Musical Director, the Festival Singers of Wellington has encouraged young performers and introduced new music to swell the great sea of faith. People of the Light continues this tradition under the direction of composer Jonathan Berkahn who has been a choir member since 1990, accompanist (1999-2013) and is currently Musical Director. Jonathan is also director of music at an Anglican parish in Khandallah, Wellington.

The music follows the Church year, beginning with songs for Advent and Christmas. These first four songs are filled with Advent expectation and the certainty that God’s care is ever-present. Go to dark Gethsemane prepares us for the twelve pieces of an Easter cantata, The Third Day, in which the musical settings and words heighten the pain and poignancy of the familiar sequence of events.

In The Third Day we hear many voices anew: Judas in torment, mother Mary tending the body of her son, sorrowing women early in the morning, the angel who speaks to these women, the friends, confused and fearful, in the locked upper room, the travellers on the road to Emmaus and doubting Thomas.

The cantata concludes with the Great Commission and a triumphant Finale dances along supported by a blend of instrumental sections and full choir. The cantata is followed by Such love, a beautiful setting of 1 John 3:1-2, 16-18, and choral settings for the traditional words of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. People of the Light concludes with a Blessing based on Psalm 27.

An unexpected and delightful instrumental inclusion are pieces of Celtic music. The cantata opens with Easter Snow and at the end  FInale slides into The Early Morning Set, with lively melodies to complement the fervour of the preceding piece.

Look, therefore, for variety in this CD and you will find it. Fourteen instrumentalists are named in the list of performers, three of whom play more than one instrument. Soloists, ably supported by women’s and men’s voices and full choir, enrich choral textures.

Expect variety in mood. Some songs resonate with gentle tenderness, such as Pietà. With its lilting cadences, Pietà is part of a long tradition in religious art depicting Mary cradling her crucified son. Gently,  gently, lift him may well move you to tears. In contrast, Do you remember? presents the events of Good Friday with a series of questions, reflective and restrained, juxtaposed with sections of harsh words and percussive sound striking like whips.

Undeniably, the music is attractive and memorable. The language is steeped in Biblical allusions and quotation so that it is familiar but not so familiar that it washes blandly over the listener. All sources of words are acknowledged and elsewhere Jonathan shows his expertise in setting his own well-chosen words to music.

Jonathan expresses the hope that the music will speak to any who will hear. This reviewer found this to be true. So, immerse yourselves in these songs and the words and you will be richly rewarded.”