Wednesday: St Paul’s-in-the-Camp Flashmob Evensong

On Wednesday we will have Evensong outside St Paul’s — unless the cathedral has opened for worship again, of course, in which case we may as well join them inside.

Meet at 5pm for 5.15; outside M&S seems to be a reasonable place for it, although we may need to move (especially if there are enough of us to obstruct the walkway).

You can print a copy of the liturgy from here ON THE DAY or from here today (Tuesday). Alternately you can follow along online using the same links on a smartphone or using one of the various Common Worship smartphone apps.

The really simple way to do it will be to bring a Book of Common Prayer, though. I have a small number of spares. The Psalm will be Psalm 119:145-176. The Old Testament reading will be @ Kings 9:1-16. The New Testament reading will be Acts 27:1-26. I did not choose these readings; I want to use the same ones that will be on the Church of England website, for ease of letting others follow along at home or elsewhere. Readers for the readings will be assigned when we meet.

We will sing the psalm and canticles from the Parish Psalter. If you have a Parish Psalter please bring it, even if you don’t sing! These are harder to get hold of than the BCP and I only have a small number. Ditto the music for the ferial responses. I will cantor if there are no clergy there who are willing/able to do so.

We will use the same hymns as on Sunday, mostly because I have about 20 hymn sheets and I don’t want to waste them. If you want to print the words to these yourself they are available in .pdf format here. If you want to bring a hymnal to sing harmony I prefer New English Hymnal (note that some of the words are different).

If you don’t have any of these bits of pieces, you can still come! Really. You can look over my shoulder, or someone else’s, or participate in a more reflective manner.

If you want to join the choir for the anthem please contact @FlashEvensong on Twitter, who is organising that bit. I’ve said that if we don’t have at least two strong readers per voice part it’s better not to do the anthem. There is a poll here for you to sign up.

It would be helpful to have a rough idea how many people will be coming along, so if you are planning on it please do leave a comment here (even if you aren’t planning to sing the anthem). Anonymous comments are fine.

5 for 5.15pm outside M&S, St. Paul’s-in-the-Camp
Liturgy here on the day.
Bring BCP, Parish Psalter, and ferial responses if you have them.
Contact @FlashEvensong for choral anthem enquiries, poll here.

St Paul’s Evensong at OccupyLSX

I didn’t think, when I got up this morning, that I would somehow wind up leading a BCP Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The cathedral has had Occupy LSX, a protest camp, on their doorstep for the past week. Last weekend the Canon Chancellor, Revd Dr Giles Fraser, told the police to leave the protesters alone. As the week has worn on and the tents have stayed up, the cathedral has been operating on a reduced schedule, and on Friday the Dean issued a statement saying it would have to close until further notice.

I have no strong criticism of the cathedral closing to sightseers; there is a point at which keeping things ticking over stops making economic sense, and though I am uncomfortable with entry fees for cathedrals I cannot condemn them without calling into question the legitimacy of thousands of smaller, parish-based fundraising efforts. Fair game.

But a cathedral is more than architecture and establishment. Cathedrals exist to serve the local community, as well as to support parish churches in their work. Their primary task is of public worship, and it is difficult to see how Occupy LSX are a significant threat to that. The supposed health and safety reasons for closure given by the cathedral haven’t, to my knowledge, been specified in a way that would allow the protesters to improve matters, and so things have come to a sort of impasse.

Practising the organ this morning I half-joked on Twitter about being tempted to turn up at St Paul’s and hold Evensong myself, if they weren’t letting people in for services. Then I went back to practising, it being one of those mornings where I felt like I had someone else’s fingers and feet, and the choir turned up and we rehearsed, and there was a service and afterwards tea and toast. I checked my phone before heading home and there seemed to be some positive response to the idea of an outdoor Evensong, and I began to think more seriously about it.

I’m accustomed to Evensong services of varying sizes. I knew that without any real idea of who was going to turn up, I wouldn’t want to plan anything too complicated.. but there definitely wasn’t time to select metrical psalms, so we’d have to do simple Anglican Chant (and hope for enough people who can make sense of it for it to work) or even just said psalms and canticles. I made a few more tentative tweets, putting out feelers to see who else might be interested. I tried to contact both St Paul’s, and Occupy LSX, through Twitter, and got no response — fair enough, both are busy organisations. But people who had been involved in the protest, and various clergy and churchy types online, seemed encouraging, so I decided to go for it.

At 12.12 I tweeted “Right. Evensong at @OccupyLSX outside St Pual’s, 3.45 for 4pm. Please bring Parish Psalter & BCP if you have them.” From there it was a matter of choosing hymns with words in the public domain and printing them, providing links to those and to the BCP liturgy for the day through the C of E website, making sure I had the readings and the Collect for the 21st Sunday after Trinity to hand, and the sort of low-grade terror at what I was doing that you might expect, complete with wildly beating heart and trembling hands. A lot of people were generally supportive but simply unable to get there due to geography or prior commitments. But people said they would come, and I turned up and they found me. Our numbers were small but mighty, and included an atheist and a Roman Catholic, as a typical Evensong at St Paul’s well might! Apparently there had been some sort of praying and singing not too long before my arrival, but the clergyman involved was busy being interviewed by someone with a camera and I had come over all shy, so we decided just to get on with it. We chose an almost-quiet spot outside M&S and did just that.

And it was good. Christ is made the sure foundation was our introit, chosen because I love it and it is a good length, and one or two people did join us as we sang. There was a bit of informal awkwardness going from one bit of the service to the next — I nearly forgot the psalm, think of it! — but we chanted psalms and canticles in something resembling unison, and the ferial responses were fairly straightforward. The readings were Ecclesiastes Chapters 11 and 12, and St Paul’s 2nd Letter to Timothy, Chapter 2, verses 1-7. One annoying photographer insisted on trying to ask us questions during the service, which I found a bit difficult — I tried to explain we weren’t finished, I think someone else went and talked to him and then came and joined us again. Instead of sermon (the epistle said it all with “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.”) or anthem we had Guide me, O thou great Jehovah and after the “Prayer for the Clergy and People” (rather apt I thought) and “A Prayer of St Chrysostom” and the Grace we sang O God, our help in ages past and went our respective ways — some of us to the pub, to slake the thirst after righteousness (I’ll get my coat), others off home or to other parts of the protest.

So, that was a pretty strange day. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

A nice afternoon out

If you’re thinking about coming to Evensong tomorrow (St Mary’s Rotherhithe, SE16 4JE at 6pm on Sunday) why not stop by the Brunel Museum first? They open until 5pm, leaving just enough time for a quick half pint at The Mayflower before the service starts.

I certainly fancy a wander around the museum. I wonder if I can convince someone to carry the serpent so I’m not too knackered to play it later!

London Gallery Quire Evensong

London Gallery Quire will be singing an Evensong at St Mary’s Rotherhithe this Sunday, 8th May, at 6pm. I’m really looking forward to it!

Here’s a very rough sample of one of the pieces. This is just me singing the parts, one take each, so the tuning isn’t amazing, the timing is ragged and some of the words aren’t very clear. But it’s such a wonderful little piece I wanted people to be able to hear it! Blest who with generous pity glows by artsyhonker

EDIT: The embed thing doesn’t seem to be working but here is a link to the file at Soundcloud.

You can download a PDF of the music from the LGQ website if you want to follow along. The more observant may notice that I’ve put the whole thing down a tone and then transposed the bassline up, in order to accommodate my vocal range.

If you want to hear it done right you’ll have to come to Evensong!

The Volunteer Organist

Last Sunday I rolled along to Christ Church Wanstead as I often do for Evensong; it’s usually quite a small service and I enjoy turning up, singing, and going away again without having to worry about messing anything up. Evensong doesn’t have to be all cathedrals and choirboys and processions and Stanford; it can be an intimate, quiet occasion, comfortable like an old coat — even if, for me, it’s an old coat I’ve only recently acquired, somewhat by accident.

It wasn’t quite like this Victorian parlour song, but I arrived to find the organist was absent, and somehow I ended up volunteering to play.

The minister’s decision to say rather than chant the psalm was the right one, given that the congregation was also small that day. I don’t have enough experience of chanted psalmody to be able to do this without at least being able to play through the chant a few times. The canticles were okay though, because the text is more familiar.
My sight-reading isn’t as bad as I thought! But, it isn’t good enough yet that I’d really be happy to do that for a “main” service. I didn’t do myself any favours with tempo and I might have taken things a bit more slowly, especially as at previous services there I’ve found the hymnody leans toward a more stately pace. On the whole I think I would be better off playing the first line or even just the starting notes and then singing: people would likely find that easier to follow than an organ or piano. In fact (and I did discuss this with the minister afterward) there’s a strong argument for two-note chanted psalms and canticles, and unaccompanied hymnody, with so few people and without the usual organist.
Next time, it would be better to spend more time rehearsing the unknown hymns on the electric piano and less time trying to work out how to turn the organ on… and I really should get around to doing some practice at Christ Church, as a change from the instrument I’m learning on at St Andrew’s.


In the final year of my degree I decided I needed to do more singing, and one thing led to another…

I am delighted that we’ll be singing and playing Evensong at a church not too far from where I live! It makes carrying the serpent much easier. Playing from the gallery is a treat, too; many galleries have had so many bits of pipe organ added that we can’t get into them.


A special service of Evensong with the

London Gallery Quire

Hear the leading exponents of West Gallery music, the psalmody heard in parish churches and non-conformist chapels during the Georgian period, sung from the West Gallery of one of the finest, most unspoilt Georgian churches in England – St Mary’s Wanstead.

Sunday 6th February 2011 at 6.30pm


Overton Drive, Wanstead E11 2LW

All welcome