Monthly Evensong Services Begin October 8
The 2017/18 Choral Evensong series begins Sunday, October 8 at 5:00 p.m., and you are cordially invited to attend.
Choral Evensong, or a similar choral service, will be sung every second Sunday of the month at 5:00 p.m. (please note the earlier time this season).
These services are typically sung by the St. Peter’s Singers, a sixteen-voice ensemble that has specialized in the singing of Choral Evensong at St. Peter’s since 1990.
At this first service, the St. Peter’s Singers will offer music that they recently sang at an Evensong service at Christ Church Cathedral, downtown. The canticles are a kinetic twentieth-century setting by Grayston Ives (b. 1948). The anthem is a lush twenty-first-century composition by David Briggs (b. 1962) “O Lord, support us”. The words are a beautiful prayer for the evening by John Henry Newman.
O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.
This marvelous prayer is in the oft-overlooked “prayers” section in the back of the Book of Common Prayer: it is Prayer No. 63, “In the Evening” on page 833.
And this prayer encapsulates what Evensong is really all about: it is prayer in the Evening. It is the service of “Evening Prayer” from the Book of Common Prayer, to be precise. And we believe that this service, and the opportunity to worship in this way at this time of day, is a great gift to our parish, and the wider St. Louis community.
Other services this season include two collaborations with other choirs. The November 12 Evensong will be sung by the Treble Choristers of Grace Church, Kirkwood together with our own St. Peter’s Choristers. The February 11 Evensong will be sung by the combined choirs of the Church of St. Michael & St. George, and St. Peter’s.
In Advent and the Epiphany seasons, we will hold two separate carol services. On December 10, the St. Peter’s Choristers and Parish Choir will again offer a Service of Lessons and Carols for Advent. This service was very well received for the first time last year, and we very much look forward to presenting this service again. The St. Peter’s Singers will sing an Epiphany Carol Service on January 14.
Finally, a word on the contexts in which we sing this service of Choral Evensong: in our daily life of prayer, our city and diocese, and our Episcopal Church.
The Book of Common Prayer provides for us the tools to pray the Daily Office (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer), and the frequency with which we are to say it is right there in the name! If you haven’t considered this method of daily prayer before, I invite you to look at the services of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (found in their Rite I versions in Book of Common Prayer on page 37 and 61 respectively). The Episcopal Church gives us a rich liturgical tradition, but this tradition is not limited to Sundays. Even when we are alone or with family on weekdays, these services are available to us. When we pray the Daily Office during the week, a service like Choral Evensong becomes a joyous, richly textured version of a service that is already deeply familiar and a part of our spiritual life.
St. Peter’s is not the only church in St. Louis to offer Choral Evensong regularly. In fact, it is possible to attend a service of Choral Evensong nearly every Sunday of the year. The service is sung on the first and third Sundays of the month at the Church of St. Michael and St. George in Clayton, the second Sunday of the month here at St. Peter’s, and the fourth Sunday of the month at Christ Church Cathedral. In our corner of the Diocese of Missouri, we are fortunate to have this service available to us in this way.
Finally, St. Peter’s is very proud of having sung this service regularly for more than a quarter-century. But the tradition of Choral Evensong is as old as the Anglican church itself, and the great diversity of music that we sing at these services is drawn from all periods of that tradition. The service offered at St. Peter’s is in the traditional language of Rite I because most of the music written for Choral Evensong was written before the 1979 revision of the American prayer book. Even since the introduction of the contemporary language version of the Evening Prayer liturgy in 1979, composers have still largely chosen to write music for the traditional words. Why? I don’t believe that they have done this to be overly fussy or stubborn, but rather because the Anglican tradition values tradition itself and continuity with the past. When we hear and sing these beautiful words, it should help remind us of the depth and breadth of the encircling traditions of music and prayer in which we take part.