The joy of evensong

Apr 16, 2018 by

by Revd Dr Jonathan Arnold, Spectator:

When Palestrina wrote his Mass settings and motets, or J.S. Bach his cantatas and passions, they could not have imagined the ways in which their music would be heard today. We can now access sacred music in our living rooms, at work and on the commute: an hour-long compilation of the choir of New College, Oxford performing the Agnus Dei has four-and-a-half million views on YouTube.

Spotify and smartphones may eliminate the need to visit a church or chapel to hear these works, but visit we still do. While overall church attendance has fallen by two-thirds since the 1960s, attendance at traditional choral worship in the UK is on the rise, and has been for the past two decades.

Evensong services at Magdalen College Chapel in Oxford, where I have the privilege of ministering, are resolutely popular. Numbers at our weekend Evensongs are well into the three figures, and have been for around 20 years. My colleagues in several other college chapels report similar turnouts.

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