An outline of choral Evensong and a day off

As we had a day off from singing, I thought I’d devote today’s blog in Truro to Evensong and what it entails… and leave you with some pictures of our day!

Not having grown up in the high Anglican church tradition, it took me quite a while to get my head around each part of the service and its purpose. So hopefully this blog provides a brief outline and more detailed look at it (with a little help from Google and Wikipedia!).

Evensong: choral service of prayer carried out late afternoon/ early evening.


  • Choir processes in
  • Preces (First part of responses)
  • Psalm
  • First lesson from old testament
  • Magnificat
  • Second lesson from new testament
  • Nunc Dimittis
  • Creed
  • Lesser litany, the Lord’s prayer, responses & collects
  • Anthem
  • Intercessions (prayers), spoken
  • Grace & blessing
  • Organ voluntary as choir process out

Preces: Part of the choral responses, the preces is a sung “conversation” between precentor/ priest and choir and opens the Evensong service. The words used in the Anglican church are:

“Precentor: O Lord, open thou our lips:
Choir: And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise.

Precentor: O God, make speed to save us:
Choir: O Lord, make haste to help us.

Precentor: Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
Choir: As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Precentor: Praise ye the Lord.
Choir: The Lord’s name be praised.”

Psalm: sung by the choir. The congregation stand until the first colon (:) of the psalm and for the Gloria only.

Magnificat: The Magnificat (“Magnifies”), otherwise known as Mary’s Canticle (Mary’s Song), is taken from the gospel of Luke in which Mary praises God for Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John the Baptist.

The words used in the Anglican church are as follows:

“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 shewed 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 forefathers, 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.”

Nunc dimittis: The Nunc Dimittis, “Now dismiss”, is the Canticle of Simeon or Simeon’s Song. According to Luke, the words below were sung by Simeon, a devout Jew, when presented with baby Jesus by Joseph and Mary. Simeon is said to have been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had met the Messiah. His song is recognition of one of the many prophecies foretelling Jesus’ birth.

“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,
Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.”

The Creed: (spoken)

“I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.

Lesser litany, the Lord’s prayer & responses:

Precentor: The Lord be with you.
Choir: And with thy spirit.
Precentor: Let us pray.
Choir: Lord, have   mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. Amen.

Precentor: O Lord, shew thy mercy upon us.
Choir: And grant us thy salvation.
Precentor: O Lord, save the Queen.
Choir: And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
Precentor: Endue thy Ministers with righteousness.
And make thy chosen people joyful.
Precentor: O Lord, save thy people.
And bless thine inheritance.
Give peace in our time, O Lord.
Because there is none other that fighteth for us, but only thou, O God.
O God, make clean our hearts within us.
Choir: And take not thy Holy Spirit from us.”

Collects: Three short set prayers sung by the precentor.

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