Choral Evensong Service Inspires

By Contributing Writer
Luke Williamson

Evensong, a choral liturgy performed in the late afternoon or in the evening, is a rich aspect of the Episcopalian tradition. Sewanee’s own University Choir performed an Evensong service on September 24 at 4 p.m. in All Saints Cathedral; it was both a vocal and spiritual event, one which Sewanee students have the opportunity to experience few times every year.

Cat Kline (C’18), president of the University Choir, shared just how much work goes into putting together evensong: “We do have additional rehearsal time, and … we choose specific pieces … harder pieces, that require extra time and effort.” And oftentimes, the harder the piece, the more beautiful it sounds.

Evensong always consists of Canonicals, songs which “are sung every Evensong,” elucidated Kline, but which “different composers have … composed different music to,” using the same lyrics. With intricate four-part versions of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, along with the Precis and Responses, the University choir is essentially performing prayer in song, a beautiful and complex one at that.

Evensong is so moving, in fact, that one of the Choir’s traditions is to solemnly reflect on the service as they precess out of All Saints, all the while staying completely silent. This articulates just how impactful Evensong is, and the built-in time for reflection is an important aspect of the Choir’s Evensong performance for the students.

Arlis Astudillo (C’18), shared that for him, the best part of Evensong is “singing the lord’s prayer … I feel like it sounds a little monotone but then when you add music to it I feel like it sounds a little better.” Kline added that having a service at night or late afternoon “adds to the mood … I think that makes it kinda special and it’s like a wind down to your day.” She even bemusingly added, “I like evensong more than church, like more than a morning service….”

It is not only a treat for the community to experience, but also for the students to put on. Marissa Cathryn (C’20) shares that for her, choir is about more than music: it’s about friendship. “I have always enjoyed getting together with my friends in choir, grabbing dinner before or after as a group.” She added that choir is almost like her “second family.”

Over the course of time that seniors Cat Kline and Arlis Astudillo have been members of the choir, they note that the service has slowly been gaining popularity throughout the student body and community. They accredit this shift in interest as symptomatic of more word of mouth communication, but also due in part to the efforts of Dr. Ward, who was new to the Choir program last year. “I think Dr. Ward does a really great job of getting people involved in the choir … and showing people what we do … and so people are more interested in it and willing to come and wanting to come.”