Upcoming Choral Evensongs
Sunday, February 17th, 3 pm
Pre-Service music begins at 2:30 pm with
André O'Neil, Cello
Yvonne Hansbrough, Flauto Traverso
Andrew Rutherford, Lute and Theorbo
Service music by Farrant, Smith, Davies, and Weelkes
Sunday, March 3rd, 3 pm
Organ recital played by Andrew Cantrill begins at 2:30 pm
Service music by H. Purcell, D. Purcell, and Walmisley and Wesley
Evensong at the Cathedral
The Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys sings Evensong at the Cathedral approximately every month during the school year. Services are on Sunday afternoon, usually at 3 pm, typically preceded by a recital at 2:30 pm.
Evensong is a service with a rich history and deep roots. It is considered by many to be the “crown jewel” of Anglican liturgies. It is a service that is largely Anglican in conception in that it was compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for the first Book of Common Prayer in 1549. In an effort to strengthen the piety of both priest and laymen alike, Archbishop Cranmer amalgamated the eight Canonical Hours (or set times of prayer) of medieval monasticism into two services: Matins (Morning Prayer) and Evensong (Evening Prayer). Cranmer combined the evening office of Vespers with the night office of Compline to create Evensong. He did this because in pre-Reformation England, the act of praying an office, even for a moderately educated layman, was a complicated, if not altogether impossible, affair. It required a working knowledge of Latin as well as a hefty and prohibitively expensive satchel of books. With the publication of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, the pious yet progressive churchman could clearly navigate Cranmer’s concise offices, and in so doing would have read the entire Psalter within one month’s time and the entire Bible in a year.
Two canticles, the Magnificat and the Nunc dimittis, serve as the liturgical core of Evensong. Ever since the 15th century, composers have set Cranmer’s dignified translation of these two texts to music. The result is one of Evensong’s greatest strengths: there are literally thousands of settings of the Evening Canticles dating from the Tudor period right up to the present day. Thus the worshiper is always exposed to a new illumination of the text. The psalmody of Evensong also lends itself to be colored and shaped by the music to which it is sung. At the Cathedral of All Saints, we are very fortunate to use the 1535 Myles Coverdale translation of the psalms for Evensong. They are usually sung using Anglican Chant, which originated as a form of harmonized Gregorian chant. Here again the worshipper can be transported as the choir and organist alike strive to “paint the text” and bring the worshiper deeper into the meaning of what is being sung.
The prayerful experience of Evensong is one that we are truly blessed to have at The Cathedral of All Saints. In it we strive to offer our best for the praise of Almighty God. It is an act of worship in which the venerable language of our Prayer Book is intertwined with the greatest music that our small corner of holy Mother Church has to offer. In gathering together on Sunday afternoons, we are engaging in an act that is being offered throughout the world; an act that has been offered by our ancestors throughout the centuries.