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enormously in its now almost 500-year history, and many today find the language of the Book of Common Prayer both outdated and inaccessible, the simple yet effective service structured around psalms, readings and the opportunity to reflect on these ancient texts that have tied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, you can see a video recording by following the link below.
Organ Vespers for the Sixth Sunday of Easter
Officiant: Rev Dr Deborah Meister, Associate Priest
Organist: Dr Jonathan White, Director of Religious Music
- Prelude: A Trumpet Minuet, Alfred Hollins (1865-1942)
- Welcome from Rev Dr Deborah Meister
- 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 87
- Her foundations are upon the holy hills : the Lord loveth the gates of Sion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.
- Very excellent things are spoken of thee : thou city of God.
- I will think upon Rahab and Babylon : with them that know me
- Behold ye the Philistines also : and they of Tyre, with the Morians; lo, there was he born.
- And of Sion it shall be reported that he was born in her : and the most High shall stablish her.
- The Lord shall rehearse it when he writeth up the people : that he was born there.
- The singers also and trumpeters shall he rehearse : All my fresh springs shall be in thee.
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: Andante Tranquillo from Five Short Pieces, Percy Whitlock (1903-1946)
- First Lesson: Zechariah 8:1-13
Again the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
- Magnificat: Magnificat Primi Toni, Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
- My soul doth Magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- He remembering his mercy : hath holpen His servant Israel
- As He promised to our forefather : Abraham and his seed for ever
- 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 21:22 – 22:5
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
- Organ Reflection: In modo dorico, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1925)
- Postlude: Concerto in C major after Antonio Vivaldi, BWV 594, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
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