October 7- Choral Evensong

Choral Evensong is sung at Epiphany on the first Wednesday of each month. At Evensong this coming Wednesday, October 7th, the Epiphany Schola will sing music by Renaissance composers Cristóbal de Morales (1500-1553) – considered to be the most influential Spanish composer before Victoria and Tomàs de Victoria (1548-1611) himself, the most famous composer in 16th-century Spain.

The service of Choral Evensong lasts about half an hour and traditionally takes place in the afternoon or twilight hours. It combines readings and prayers from the Book of Common Prayer with sung canticles and anthems. It still follows the Anglican form of service which emerged from the reigns of King Henry and his son, King Edward VI, following England’s disestablishment the Church of Rome and the institution of the Church of England – in the newly nationalized vernacular.

As the Evening service rite evolved (a result of the merging of the monastic/Catholic evening ‘hours’ of Vespers and Compline – rituals that went back to the early centuries of the Church) through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it became modified and refined. In America, the English service survived the dissociation of the colonial Anglican Church from the Church of England during the War of Independence. As the nascent Episcopal Church grew and thrived in the new nation, so too did its reverence for and cohesion with much of the liturgy and form of the erstwhile ‘mother’ Church. Thus, the tradition of Choral Evensong – a staple of the Anglican rite – has remained part of the American liturgical landscape over the past two centuries.

Today, in this country, as in England, the Evening Prayer service of Choral Evensong holds special resonance both for regular churchgoers and for non-sectarian visitors. Whatever the motivation for attendance, all are invited to respond, in contemplation, to the beauty, richness, serenity and tradition of the music and prayers, and to find a sense of connectedness binding present to ancient past.

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