Evensong is an Anglican liturgy that dates back to 1549, when Thomas Cranmer created the Book of Common Prayer. In it, Cranmer combined two monastic services (Vespers and Compline) for use in the late afternoon or evening. In the American Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, we use the Rite I Evening Prayer liturgy, which closely resembles Cranmer’s service. When sung by a choir or congregation, this service is known as Evensong, and it has long been an important part of our Anglican heritage. Because most of the service is sung, there is a very large repertoire of music that has been composed specifically for Evensong, from the 16th century to today. The two primary canticles sung during Evensong are the Magnificat – the Song of Mary – and the Nunc dimittis – the Song of Simeon. Like all forms of liturgical worship, Evensong has elements of drama and ritual that nourish our spiritual lives. Traditionally, Evensong is primarily sung by a choir; the congregation participates in the hymns and spoken sections of the liturgy, as well as in quiet prayer and meditation throughout the service. The choral portions of the service are a means through which the congregation may draw nearer to the presence of God.
St. John’s typically offers two services of Choral Evensong each year. The prelude begins at 4:45 p.m., and the service is at 5:00. There is no communion, and services last about 45 minutes.