Cathedral of St. John’s choir. Courtesy photo
The 50-strong choir of the Cathedral of St. John, Albuquerque, directed by Maxine Thévenot, with Edmund Connolly, organ, will visit Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church in Los Alamos at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 9, to sing a service of Choral Evensong with the resident Evensong Choir.
The Cathedral Choir has toured the US and UK, and has made several critically acclaimed recordings. The service, which uses the language of the 1662 prayer book, will last about 45 minutes, and feature music by C.V. Stanford, Orlando Gibbons, Tomas Luis de Victoria, J.S. Bach, and William Smith. There also will be congregational hymns and readings from the King James Bible. The service will be followed by a reception in Kelly Hall.
The service of Evensong, or Evening Prayer, is a combination and a development of the daily monastic services. These in turn can be traced back to a seven-fold pattern of worship derived from the time when the Jews were exiled to Babylon, far away from the Temple. When the Gospels mention Jesus and his disciples reading scripture, praying and singing psalms, they would almost certainly be using one of these forms of worship.
At the English reformation, Cranmer and others saw the importance of continuing this tradition that predates even the establishment of synagogues. However, the reformers were also determined to redemocratize Christianity – to involve the whole of the community in worship – and recognized that it was too much to expect the whole parish to gather seven times a day! So, the first two monastic services were combined into Morning Prayer, Vespers and Compline merged into Evening Prayer, and the services translated into English.
Though derived in the Church of England, these English-language services went on to inspire Morning and Evening Prayer services in most, if not all, of the Protestant denominations.
Evensong also has inspired many composers to set the texts to music. These range from late Renaissance composers, such as Thomas Tallis, William Smith, William Byrd, and Orlando Gibbons, 19th-century geniuses such as Charles Villiers Stanford, Thomas Attwood Walmisley, and to later masters of the form such as Herbert Murrill, Herbert Howells, William Henry Harris, and Basil Harwood.
This excellent music has ensured that, after a period of decline, Evensong is a small growth area within modern Christianity, both within the Anglican-Episcopalian Communion and as an export; perhaps surprisingly, an increasing number of non-Anglican churches in Germany, the Netherlands and other countries are celebrating Evensong (in English!) so that their choirs and congregations can experience the wonderful music and Cranmer’s stirring language.
The Los Alamos community is invited to join members of St. John’s Cathedral Choir and the Trinity on the Hill congregation for this special, musical event. For more information, call the TOTH office at 505.662.5107.