You may be familiar with Evensong already. Perhaps you’ve sung it yourself, or you’ve heard some of your friends and acquaintances in choirs talking about it. Maybe you’ve seen posters for Evensong at a local church. In Vivamus, we’re getting ready to sing Evensong at St Albans Cathedral in August.
To prepare ourselves, we decided to take a closer look at the magnificent tradition we’re participating in.
What, exactly, is Evensong?
Evensong is a church service, generally held around sunset. It consists of sung psalms and prayers, offering a period of respite and contemplation after the busy day, to help transition into the restful night.
Evensong in some form is thought to be many centuries old, initially sung in plainchant. The modern form of Evensong traces its roots back to 1549, when the first Book of Common Prayer was published. This consolidated and formalised common Evensong settings, and greatly influenced the practice right through to today.
It is a much beloved tradition in the UK – but all over the world, Anglican and Episcopal churches observe choral Evensong.
Do I need to be religious to attend?
With all this talk of churches and prayer, it can seem like Evensong is restricted only to Christians – and to only certain Christian denominations, at that. However, modern Evensong is not designed to be exclusionary. As long as the audience is respectful, and follows any guidance specific to the service and location, Evensong is a fruitful experience for all. Everyone is welcome, whether Anglican, of another Christian faith, of another religion, or of no religion. Modern Evensong could not exist without a firm foundation in community and togetherness.
The process of unwinding and reflection as day turns into night is one that we can all identify with. Whether or not you wish to pray to a god, it’s an opportune time to embrace some essential calm and musical beauty. You can speak and sing along if the service encourages you to do so, or you may choose to listen in silence, immersing yourself in the sublime music. Either way, Evensong is a transformative experience, and one worth actively seeking out.
Sounds good – when can I go?
Take a look at listings for your local churches. The Choral Evensong Trust website can help you search for Evensong services in different places across the UK.
If you’d like to join Vivamus for Evensong, we’ll be at St Albans Cathedral on the 26th and 27th of August 2023.
Post written by Swéta Rana.