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Source: (consider it) Thread: Evensong music
mr cheesy
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I recently experienced a really really horrible Evensong - unbalanced choir, loud-and-tuneless tenor, fidgeting youngsters and so on - and I was wondering about the music choices at the service.

Presumably there is no obligation to sing difficult choral music, and one could just as easily have an Evensong with something which is more appropriate for the choir. Is that wrong?

For example I was thinking that this particular choir might have sounded better singing and/or leading a Taize style service - but presumably someone with more musical sense than I have could do something with a choir which was attempting to sing things that they have no ability to sing.

Where did the fashion for Evensong as high choral work come from, and are there examples of the patterns of Evensong being used by choirs but with different types of music?

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arse

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L'organist
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I presume you're referring to a BCP Evensong?
If so, then there is no hard and fast rule for music, other than that it should be suitable for the occasion and within the compass of the organist and choir (if such there be) and include at least one hymn for general singing. Music beyond the scope of the available musicians, performed badly, is terrible and detracts from worship: far better to have simpler music, well-prepared and competently produced.

If one were new to a parish or trying to introduce an Evensong then the planning would look something like this:

Some places may choose to have a hymn at the start, in which case this should be the Office Hymn, either plainsong or harmonised standard tune.

Then the sentence, exhortation and confession and absolution. Versicles and responses can either be plainchant, standard ferial harmony or said.

If choir and/or congregation are up to it the Psalm should be sung to a simple chant (or could be plainchant), but there is nothing wrong with saying the Psalm; the same goes for the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis.

Responses after the Creed - said or sung; prayers don't have to be intoned, can be said with sung or spoken Amen.

After the third Collect is the anthem - can be replaced with a hymn - then you follow the accepted pattern for the parish using suitable hymns.

As far as 'suitable' hymns go: as for other services, one should aim to reflect on or illustrate one or other of the readings; there are also hymns for evening, and a longer hymn should be put in where a collection is to be taken.

Other music: before should be something fairly subdued and music at the end doesn't have to be too flashy unless it is a full Festal Evensong. Really you can't go wrong with Elgar's Vesper Voluntaries!

Other styles of music: if slotting into a standard BCP service IMO nothing too wild.

As for your suggestion of using Taize: it isn't as easy as you think, and bad Taize can be worse than just saying the service.

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Rara temporum felicitate ubi sentire quae velis et quae sentias dicere licet

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mr cheesy
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Well it was actually Church in Wales, so close but not-quite the same as the BCP.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:

As for your suggestion of using Taize: it isn't as easy as you think, and bad Taize can be worse than just saying the service.

Oh for sure. I'm absolutely not saying that I know how to remedy the situation - I can identify the problem but have no ability to fix it. I was just picking Taize as something which isn't high choral but might possible to do with a less skilled/trained choir, I apologise if that was a silly assumption.

Personally I rather like forms of singing which are entirely raw, like work songs and chanties, although that style might not work so well in an Anglican Evensong [Smile]

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arse

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Enoch
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Back in the days when all services were 1662, in most parish churches the only choral bit was where it says 'in quires and places where they sing, here followeth the anthem'. The congregation was expected to, and did, sing the canticles and psalms, to chants. The choir's job was to lead the congregation, to help them sing in prose of variable lengths, something that does not come naturally.

Musically, it was often dreadful. Because the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis came every week, they weren't always too bad. Only those who regularly experienced being in a congregation trying to chant psalms from a text psalter can fully appreciate why over the last 50 years, the practice has died out.

The same applied to Morning Prayer.

We really do need ways of putting the canticles and psalms into a form that ordinary people can sing. My own preference is for metrical versions as was usual until about 1870.

The sense of Evensong as a high choral work comes from the obsolescence of ordinary Evensong as we used to know it. That leaves only the cathedrals and a few places that specialise in choral choirs still doing it, with congregational spectators.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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Enoch
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Again, back in the days when all services were 1662, the hymns did not come within the BCP text. There was a hymn at the beginning, before Dearly beloved brethren a hymn at the end, then the sermon, and then another hymn after the sermon.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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mr cheesy
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Thanks Enoch, that's interesting.

I didn't realise that the chants were intended to be congregational, I assumed that the person chanting (who often seems to be a priest rather than the choir) was more-or-less making it up the notes as he went along. I hadn't noticed that these parts were supposed to be musically consistent enough for everyone else to join in.

My "normal" was 80s ASB in charismatic Anglican services where the Magnificat was read not chanted. I didn't realise it was sung until much later when I attended a parish church where they seemed to sing everything to a very ideosyncratic tune that I've never heard before or since.

In recent years I've dipped a toe into Evensong in various venues, and am beginning to get into it. But I still feel pain when I hear it done badly.

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arse

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Bishops Finger
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Our monthly Evensong has sung Versicles & Responses, an Office Hymn before the Psalm (which is said, minister and people taking alternate verses), sung Lesser Litany, and a hymn after the Third Collect. (We then segue into Benediction or Eucharistic Devotions, on account of being spiky).

Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are both said, though just now and again we might sing the metrical versions ( Tell out my soul, and Faithful vigil ended ) which IIRC appeared back in the 70s with Psalm Praise. The latter, of course, has other metrical versions of psalms and canticles.

Best keep it simple, and, if necessary, say it well, rather than sing it badly.

IJ

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

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Angloid
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quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:


Some places may choose to have a hymn at the start, in which case this should be the Office Hymn, either plainsong or harmonised standard tune.

Then the sentence, exhortation and confession and absolution.

Pedant alert: a hymn before the Office begins can't be the 'office hymn.' Such is always structurally part of the office; hence strictly speaking BCP Evensong can't have one. But local (or Dearmerite or Anglo-catholic) custom often provides for one, either before the psalms or after the first lesson.
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David Goode
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Anyone looking for a noted version of CWDP (much of which will also suit the new Franciscan DP as well) will appreciate the work put into Fr Richard Peers' CWDP Noted.
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ThunderBunk

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Anglican chant sits at the centre of my appreciation of choral Evensong. It is a beautiful thing which should expose its complexity only to its practitioners. It can be used for the canticles and the psalms. It is supposed to sound as natural as speech but this ideal is rarely reached and only as a fruit of extensive experience

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Og, King of Bashan

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The Episcopal Church's Hymnal includes simple settings for both sung morning prayer and evensong, including the canticles and prayers. The canticles come with several options, both simple Anglican chant, and plainchant written out in meter. My brother's church does not have a choir, but attempted to have a semi-regular congregation-sung evensong using that music. I don't know how long it lasted, but I think it had the potential to get a bit dull after a while.

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"I like to eat crawfish and drink beer. That's despair?" ― Walker Percy

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Bishops Finger
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I don't think it's widely known, but John Merbecke set Matins and Evensong to music, in addition to the 1549 Communion Service (much more well-known, of course, and still used now and then today - the music, that is).

I haven't investigated, but it might be an interesting exercise to use Merbecke for Evensong one day - the setting is available via Our Good Friend Google:

http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Merbecke/Merbecke.htm

Taize BCP Evensong doesn't quite work, IMHO, but a form of Taize Vespers (in contemporary language) does. YMMV.

IJ

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Our words are giants when they do us an injury, and dwarfs when they do us a service. (Wilkie Collins)

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I didn't realise that the chants were intended to be congregational, I assumed that the person chanting (who often seems to be a priest rather than the choir) was more-or-less making it up the notes as he went along.

I think you’re confusing ‘chanting’ = a way of singing the psalms by a group
with
‘intoning’ – prayers or phrases sung by one person

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My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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TomM
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I didn't realise that the chants were intended to be congregational, I assumed that the person chanting (who often seems to be a priest rather than the choir) was more-or-less making it up the notes as he went along.

I think you’re confusing ‘chanting’ = a way of singing the psalms by a group
with
‘intoning’ – prayers or phrases sung by one person

There's not that much difference between the two.

At least when done well, an intoned prayer is sung using a predetermined (and usually ancient and traditional) chant tone.

Take for example the tones to which the Eucharistic Prayer, the Exsultet or the Gospels are sung. They work in much the same way as the tones to which the Psalms are sung.

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venbede
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It was a Victorian innovation to have the congregation sing Anglican chant.

A rather regrettable one to my mind.

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Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro' the world we safely go.

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bib
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I love Anglican Chant within the service of Choral Evensong (which my church has once a month) and we have found that even a small non professional choir can learn to sing although it is important to have regular choir practices. I would certainly not endorse replacing the traditional chants with Taize (which I actually dislike) as I think we would lose those members of the congregation who love the service of Choral Evensong and attend enthusiasticaly. We also have Taize service which attracts a different congregation. I think it is encouraging that a small church still tries to have a service of Choral Evensong even if they aren't skilled musicians and would hope they are given positive feedback for their attempts.

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dj_ordinaire
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quote:
Originally posted by Bishops Finger:
I don't think it's widely known, but John Merbecke set Matins and Evensong to music, in addition to the 1549 Communion Service (much more well-known, of course, and still used now and then today - the music, that is).

The 'Not the Church Times' included an advertisment for a recording of Merbecke's settings of the Churching of Women and the Commination Against Sinners.

I think I would rather enjoy the latter!

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Flinging wide the gates...

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by bib:
I think it is encouraging that a small church still tries to have a service of Choral Evensong even if they aren't skilled musicians and would hope they are given positive feedback for their attempts.

All I meant with the above is that choirs should attempt things within their competence. I gave no feedback directly to the church concerned because it was so awful, however I have also attended much smaller and less "professional" services of Evensong which were much simpler but far better. There is nothing positive to be gained from attempting and failing at a complex choral work which is just painful on the ears and nobody is enjoying singing or hearing.

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arse

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by dj_ordinaire:
The 'Not the Church Times' included an advertisment for a recording of Merbecke's settings of the Churching of Women and the Commination Against Sinners.

I think I would rather enjoy the latter!

Perhaps you might like to find in some old parish chest his settings for A Form of Prayer with thanksgiving to used yearly on the fifth day of November and that also to be used on the 29th May with intoned settings for Grovely, grovely, all is grovely.

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Brexit wrexit - Sir Graham Watson

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