Skip to content

Palm Procession Logistics

As we enter into the final approach to Holy Week, a few thoughts on procession management. It’s a little tricky to give general tips for many of the kinds of processions we see in the coming weeks, because the spaces and groups that are involved can vary so widely. (In other words, your milage may vary.)

The greatest difficulty I’ve seen in most processions is singing in procession and keeping it together. This is especially difficult when processions are long and skinny, and especially if those processions pass through choke points–like doorways, or even corners. If you can, a big crowd works much better than a long line.

Generally, the cantor, choir, and whatever other strong singers best support everyone else by bringing up the rear, where their sound will project forwards.

It can help to have some percussion or other means of keeping time that will carry the length of the procession. The best time keepers are either very high pitched and sharp, like claves, the edges of a small djembe or doumbek, or a high pitched snare or tenor drum; or very low and capable of establishing a pulse, like a bass drum, a surdo, or the center of a large Djembe. Other percussion, like shakers and bells can add color, but you want to avoid having too many drums filling up the space for the vocal range, unless you just want all percussion. A large palm branch can be a shaken percussion instrument, especially if it’s a little dry.

The music makes a difference. The standard Palm Sunday processional, All Glory, Laud, and Honor, is not well suited to outdoor procession, in my opinion. It can take some drums and can even work redone with a little syncopation into something more like a medieval dance (significantly uptempo from the usual) speed, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the effort, when there are other excellent choices out there. I’m very partial to the South African Freedom is Coming–it’s easy to learn, loops indefinitely, and I think captures the hopeful expectation of the Triumphal Entry (light modification may be needed to change “Alleluia” to “Hosana”). In the Palm Sunday Open thread, Pamela suggested Prepare ye the way of the Lord (from Godspell), which is also easy to learn and processes well.

I’ve not even heard it done, but a call & response format could also work well with a sufficiently loud cantor; it would also be interesting to try shouting or spoken chants, almost in the style of a street protest, or maybe sports fans?

Share your best tips for managing processions in the comments!

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *