Choral Evensong, Predigerkirche Zurich, 9 October 2020

Choral Evensong with the Chaplain and choir of St Andrew’s will take place at the Predigerkirche on Friday 9 October 2020 – 18:30hrs

The choir will sing evening prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, as traditionally sung in cathedrals, churches and colleges around the Church of England. This is part of the Predigerkirche Vespers series.

    Introit: Ley – A prayer of King Henry VI
    Responses: Radcliffe
    Psalm 85 (Lloyd)
    Canticles: Wood in E-flat no.2
    Anthem: Elgar – The Spirit of the Lord
    Hymn: The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended

    Isaiah 55.1-13
    Matthew 9.18-31

Here are some notes from the Music Director, Shaun Yong.
A link to some historical notes follow at the end.

Why Evensong?

It was the architect of the first prayer book, Thomas Cranmer who, under the authority of Henry VIII, created the distinctive Anglican liturgy of Evensong out of the old monastic offices of Vespers and Compline. Combining the two canticles of Magnificat and Nunc dimittis into one service was a stroke of Cranmer’s genius. The song of young Mary’s “yes” on behalf of the human race which gave us the incarnate God in our world, and that of aged Simeon, who by his faithful patience finally saw the promised Christ presented at the temple. Around and between that are the psalms, lessons, and prayers that make up Evensong, or Evening Prayer:  a prayer to be thankful for the day that stands at its closing, and an acknowledgement that we must now let go of that which is left because we cannot accomplish everything. It is popularly known as Choral Evensong because the choir sings much of music in the service, from a repertoire so rich that it is considered a musical genre in itself.

While attendance at Sunday services at Church of England churches in the UK have shrunk by more than 10% over the last decade, weekday Choral Evensong services in cathedrals across the England have seen a 35% increase in numbers over the same period. Similar growth at Choral Evensong has been reported by parish and collegiate churches. So unusual is this trend that a new research at Magdalen College, Oxford, has been commissioned to find out why Choral Evensong attracts new worshippers in such numbers, especially those who might not normally attend a Sunday service.

It may be surprising that a service devised in the sixteenth century is capturing the imagination of people more so than new and ever-changing worship formats do. But it may precisely be that the majestic language of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the King James bible being spoken at Evensong is more inclusive and less threatening than our everyday language we have all but managed to vandalise.

For a generation not used to sitting in silence or in reflection, Evensong is an antidote to the world of instant gratification. Through speech and music that have been hallowed by centuries of repetition, one gets the sense of being caught up in ever-continuous praise. Evensong has been described as a side entrance of the church. You need only engage as much as you like in Evensong: there’s every hospitality to be found for the unwilling and the doubting. From those who have not found the church a natural home, to those who desire a quiet end to a day, it is as if they enter the church by the side door and simply join in the praise as a traveller. The clergy and choir offer worship through the artistic expression of the liturgy, and the participation for those in attendance is in the listening, a quality so rare in our time it deserves every opportunity to be cultivated.