We want you to feel at ease so on these pages we answer some common questions about Choral Evensong.
Can I join the congregation?
Yes, of course: if you would like to stay for the whole service, you are welcome to sit in the seats beyond the stalls where the choir is singing. A Cathedral Steward, wearing a red ribbon, should be available to help you find your way there. Or you can sit in the Main Space. When the service is in the Lady Chapel please sit in the main body of the Chapel.
What if I only have a few minutes?
You’re welcome to sit for as long or as short a time as you like. Altogether, the service will last about 35 minutes. Feel free just to sit and soak it all in for as long as you can.
Do I have to say or do anything?
There are places where the congregation is invited to stand and you may like to do this, but it is fine if you prefer to remain seated. You will be invited to join in with some spoken parts, printed in bold in this booklet, but you don’t have to.
May I take photographs?
Please don’t take photos so we can keep the atmosphere peaceful and the space safe. We often have children singing so you can’t take pictures of the service or choir rehearsal beforehand.
May I come back to attend this service on another day?
Of course! Choral Evensong usually takes place here six times a week in school term time. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it is at 5.30pm. On Saturdays and Sundays it is at 3.00pm but check the Cathedral website just to be sure: sometimes we have to vary our usual routine.
What’s the aim of the service?
Choral Evensong is an opportunity to worship God and experience His renewing presence. In the peace and space of this great building, we have time and space to turn our hearts towards the Lord. The service has been described as “a window on heaven” and “an oasis of peace”.
What is Choral Evensong?
Choral Evensong is a form of worship which is several hundred years old and is unique to the Anglican Church. To be at Choral Evensong is like dropping in on a conversation which is already in progress – a conversation between God and human beings which began long before we were born and will go on long after we are dead. So do not be surprised, or disturbed, if there are some things in the conversation which you do not at once understand. The text of the service is drawn almost entirely from the Bible. Its main purpose is to proclaim the wonderful works of God in history and in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also invites those who worship to respond with praise and penitence, prayer and obedience.
The service is in three parts.
The first part, which is very brief, prepares us for the story which is to follow.
The second part is the story of what God has done (and continues to do) to save his people, beginning in the Old Testament (the Psalm and the First Reading), then moving to the New Testament (the Magnificat, the Second Reading and the Nunc Dimittis) and reaching its climax as we turn to face East, looking towards the dawn of God’s Kingdom, as we affirm our faith in the words of the Apostles’ Creed.
The third part is our human response to the God who has revealed himself in history, in Jesus Christ and in the Church.
Why does the Choir have so much to do and the congregation so little?
Worship without music does not easily soar; wherever the church has been concerned to make worship really expressive of truth, music has been used: sometimes this means music simple enough for everyone to join in; but at other times it means more elaborate music, in which those who are especially gifted lead the worship on behalf of everyone else.
Choral Evensong is an example of the second form. The highly skilled singing of a Cathedral Choir, and the equally highly skilled playing of a Cathedral Organist, is in partnership with the architecture and the stained glass of the building: as the musicians play and the choir sings, the rest of the congregation is liberated to meditate on the words which are sung and on the beauty which surrounds us, and so is uplifted, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into a closer sense of the presence of God.
Many who attend Choral Evensong regularly and have grown to love it, find that the music carries us along and enables us to offer our own prayers and confessions, thanks and praise to God.