Thread: Choral Evensong - who leads the preces and repsones? Board: Ecclesiantics / Ship of Fools.

To visit this thread, use this URL:;f=6;t=008493

Posted by John3000 (# 18786) on :
I have recently started attending choral evensong in various places, this is after a long period away from the church, and as a child I only attended morning services. So this is mostly new to me.

I am finding it fascinating how everywhere seems to have slightly different ways of doing things. When to sit and stand, who does what etc.

"O Lord, open thou our lips" - that's the Chaplain or whoever is leading the service, and the choir responds, right?

Then I go to somewhere and the chaplain remains silent only for the choirmaster to lead these parts. Maybe the chaplain is tone deaf I thought, and it wouldn't be fair on the choir.

Today I'm in a cathedral and I think "the Dean sure has a high voice" only to look up and see it's a young chorister doing the leading, enduing thy minsters with righteousness and so forth.

I guess this is all part of a varied tradition?

I've seen choir members read the lessons in some places so I am wondering if the choir can do everything is there any need for a priest at evensong at all? [Big Grin]
Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :
Welcome aboard, John3000!

Indeed, Evensong (even in a Cathedral) can be led by a lay person, and, in our local Cathedral, often was (when they had a resident Lay Reader).

ISTM that common sense needs to prevail. If the officiant is not musically-inclined, it's only seemly that someone who is (e.g. the choirmaster, or even a chorister) should sing the Preces etc. The officiant would then come into his or her own when welcoming the congregation, reading the Exhortation/Absolution/Lord's Prayer, reading the Lessons, announcing the Anthem (in Quires and Places where they Sing), and leading the prayers after the Third Collect. Quite enough to do!

Posted by Angloid (# 159) on :
The Office, especially in its monastic context, is above all a corporate offering. It doesn't need a priest, or indeed any presiding minister (lay or clerical) at all, except to say or sing the versicles to which the choir/people respond. And these are not essential parts of the office although they are embodied in the BCP version.

If there is a president, he or she would obviously say an opening greeting, an absolution and a blessing if there is one. On some occasions in some places (e.g. 'Solemn Evensong') it would be customary for him/her to wear a cope and cense the altar. But there is no need for such a person to read the lessons (indeed, it's more usual and appropriate for others to do this) or lead the intercessions.
Posted by bib (# 13074) on :
At my church the choir and individual choir members are in charge of anything involving singing which includes the preces etc. The priest is present for any spoken prayers, absolution, the blessing and to deliver a sermon if required. This seems to work very well as we rarely have a minister musical enough to lead the singing.
Posted by churchgeek (# 5557) on :
At the Detroit cathedral, our choirmaster is the Canon Precentor. So he chants the preces, which makes a lot of sense!
Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :
As Angloid rightly says, it's good if peeps other than the officiant, or whatever, read the Lessons.

At our Cathedral Evensong, the Lessons usually fall to a couple of the Canons in Residence (though I , a humble Episcopal Digit, was once invited to robe up, process in with the Dean and Chapter, and read the Second Lesson when it happened that Our Place's slot in Diocesan Intercessions fell on that particular Sunday. They even allowed me to park the Episcopal Chariot - an equally humble Ford Ka - outside the North Door).

Posted by Oblatus (# 6278) on :
I was a member of a choir that sang Evensong for a week in St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, back in 1998 or so. As I recall, the provost and precentor normally led Evensong. Indeed, the precentor seemed to know all the most common tones for the various settings of the preces and responses and would check just before the service to find out which setting was to be sung.

On the Friday, I think, it turned out that the precentor and provost were both to be away, and I was asked to lead the preces and responses. I was thrilled so to do: a highly memorable experience for me, if perhaps not so much for those attending.
Posted by L'organist (# 17338) on :
Rough rule of thumb:

In a large cathedral the Precentor will intone the Preces on high and holy days, the Succentor on ordinary days or when the Precentor is not available.

Smaller cathedrals may not have a Succentor, in which case it may go by rota through the resident canons.

Parish churches, it should be whoever is presiding; however, if such person isn't confident / able then a member of the choir may step in.

When I was growing up, if my own father was not present our Verger used to lead in the choir and then intone the Preces: he had been a professional singer and had tremendous presence, plus stayed in-tune.

Of course, in a rural Welsh church you may find that the incumbent does the lot: rings the bell, plays the organ, intones the responses, preaches, etc, etc, etc.
Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :
I have certainly known "O Lord open thou our lips" etc intoned by a member of the choir at Truro Cathedral at least. (The presiding priest censed the altar during the Magnificat and was wearing a cope. She didn't intone the collects either. I was sitting behind the chorister who did, and although the readings and morning service had been for the Presentation, the collect was for Septuagemisma. Cock up not conspiracy, I think.)
Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :
The churchwardens at my childhood church were advised that if no member of the clergy turned up then they should lead evensong (minus the absolution).

When our sons were growing up, they were given the opportunity to sing the Preces - in rotation with other lads of a similar age. I think the vicar was rather hoping that one of them might decide to become a priest. Ironically the one who did was a slightly younger chorister who never actually sang them!
Posted by leo (# 1458) on :
I dislike the practice of choir people singing the minister’s part, particularly ‘The Lord be with you’ and the collects and have always insisted on singing the whole lot myself. If necessary, with an unusual setting, I’ll take the music home a week early and practice.

However, since a stroke paralysed one of my vocal chords, I am unable to sing so I need to think about this – at present, there are enough musical people in our ministry team to cover evensongs.
Posted by Angloid (# 159) on :
Similar concern, though slightly off topic I'm afraid, is the practice of a cantor signing the priest's part of the eucharistic dialogue (Sursum corda). It is much rarer than at evensong, but it does happen occasionally and I think it is an abuse. If the priest is genuinely unable to sing, s/he should say it. As does Pope Francis.
Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :
Is Outrage!

Yes, indeed - and this applies to Evensong as well - if it cannot be sung well, let it be said well.

Posted by Albertus (# 13356) on :
Originally posted by Chorister:
The churchwardens at my childhood church were advised that if no member of the clergy turned up then they should lead evensong (minus the absolution).

Yes, that's right. It is one of the duties of the Churchwardens to ensure that divine service is celebrated.
Posted by John3000 (# 18786) on :
Thank you for the responses ( [Biased] ) It is interesting to read there are some different views on this, and I look forward to continuing to discover how things are done in different places as and when I have the chance.
Posted by Amanda B. Reckondwythe (# 5521) on :
Myself (under a different name) and two Shipmates, one now deceased and the other no longer active on the Ship, sang High Evensong at what is said to be the world's smallest church. And we were (are) all laymen.

Lord, it doesn't seem like that was 12 years ago!
Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :
Well done, Miss Amanda, and Companions-in-Worship!

All of which goes to show that there is no 'set' way to celebrate the Offices, except according to circumstances, local custom, available resources etc. etc.

And all are equally valid acts of worship in God's sight, I don't doubt.


© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0