Christ Church Cathedral is one of only a small number of churches in North America that offers Choral Evensong on a weekly basis throughout the year, in recognition of the fundamental place of the Daily Office in our Anglican identity and heritage. While Anglicanism has changed enormously in its now almost 500-year history, and many today find the language of the Book of Common Prayer both outdated and inaccessible, the simple yet effective service structured around psalms, readings and the opportunity to reflect on these ancient texts that have tied Christians together for thousands of years still resonates with many Anglicans, and increasingly non-believers and those exploring their faith, today.
In this extended period of self-isolation and social distancing, it has become increasingly difficult for us to maintain a strict service of Choral Evensong while our Cathedral building is closed and our choir is unable to meet. We continue to explore ways of engaging our musicians to enrich not only our worship, but the wider devotional and cultural life of our community, but we also recognise the importance of people being able to interact with live worship, even if they do so from afar. Working within this framework, our Music & Liturgy team have devised a service of Organ Vespers that we will offer today, and for future Sundays until such time as we feel able to re-evaluate how the Cathedral continues to respond to the pandemic and the effects that it has on our worship life.
Evensong itself is derived from the combination of Vespers and Compline that Thomas Cranmer first devised when working on the Book of Common Prayer in the Sixteenth Century. The term ‘vespers’ has its origins in both Ancient Greek and Latin where it just meant ‘evening’, and services that recognise the images of day and night and their allegories within the wider Christian narrative can be found in almost all denominations. Although we might typically think of Vespers as being a Catholic office, the term Organ Vespers has its origins in Lutheranism, which itself has had a pre-established evening service for centuries. Indeed, many of Bach’s cantatas would originally have been heard within this context.
Our service this evening, while not new of itself, has drawn on a number of different influences in its construction. Those of you familiar with Evensong will, we hope, still recognise the overall shape of psalms and readings, interspersed with musical items and prayers which give time and space for reflection. Yet, there are also hints of the more traditional Catholic Vespers with the Magnificat taking centre-stage in what is an elaborate duet between voice and organ. For many centuries, there existed an ‘alternatim’ practice, where the ‘choir’ (often priests and monks) would chant the appointed texts, with organ improvisations interpreting the intermediate verses. This is a practice that, in practical terms, has all but fallen into abeyance, but which still exists in more academic circles. Thus, while you will not hear the entire Magnificat text verbally enunciated, each organ interlude, nevertheless, is inspired by the spirit and essence of the verse it replaces.
While the eventual format of this service is, at least in part, unconventional, we live in unconventional times where the challenge presented to us is to maintain our regular prayer life, to see and to seek familiarity, yet also to rejoice in the diversity and possibilities that what are difficult times for us all still present. Throughout the Bible, there are instances where the faithful had to adapt, to change, and be ready to accept that they couldn’t always do things the way they had done so, or in the ways in which they felt they should be done. Yet they still remained true to themselves and to their faith, and we at Christ Church continue to do all that we can to do likewise.
Below you will find the order for our service today. You can hear the service broadcast live on Radio Ville Marie at 4pm (ET) as normal with our Evensong services, or listen to it afterwards by using the video link below.
Organ Vespers for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
Officiant: Very Rev Bertrand Olivier, Dean of Montreal
Organist: Dr Jonathan White, Director of Religious Music
- Prelude: Elegy, Sir George Thalben Ball (1896-1987)
- Welcome from the Very Rev Bertrand Olivier
- Responses (Plainsong)
V: O Lord open thou our lips
R: And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise
V: O God make speed to save us
R: O Lord make haste to help us
V: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost
R: As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen
V: Praise ye the Lord
R: The Lord’s name be praised
- Psalm 147
- O PRAISE the Lord, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God : yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.
- The Lord doth build up Jerusalem : and gather together the out-casts of Israel.
- He healeth those that are broken in heart : and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.
- He telleth the number of the stars : and calleth them all by their names.
- Great is our Lord, and great is his power : yea, and his wisdom is infinite.
- The Lord setteth up the meek : and bringeth the ungodly down to the ground.
- O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving : sing praises upon the harp unto our God;
- Who covereth the heaven with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth : and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the use of men;
- Who giveth fodder unto the cattle : and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.
- He hath no pleasure in the strength of an horse : neither delighteth he in any man’s legs.
- But the Lord’s delight is in them that fear him: and put their trust in his mercy.
- Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem : praise thy God, O Sion.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.
- Organ Reflection: Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV 731, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
- First Lesson: Zechariah 4:1-10
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
- Magnificat: Magnificat Suite, Jean-François Dandrieu (c.1682-1739)
- My soul doth Magnify the Lord
- Prélude: Plein Jeu
- And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour
- Duo (for He hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden : for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed)
- For He that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is His name
- Trio (and his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations)
- He hath shewn strength with his arm : He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts
- Basse et Dessus de Trompette (He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek)
- He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich He hath sent empty away
- Flûtes (He remembering his mercy : hath holpen His servant Israel)
- As He promised to our forefather : Abraham and his seed for ever)
- Dialogue (Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost)
- As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.
- Second Lesson: Revelation 21:1-14
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
- Organ Reflection: Prelude on Eventide, Sir C Hubert H Parry (1841-1918)
- Postlude: Prelude & Fugue in C major BWV 545, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
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