CHORAL Evensong is to return to BBC Radio 3 on Wednesdays in a live broadcast, which will be repeated on Sundays. The move was warmly welcomed when it was announced this week.
There was a storm of protest in November 2006, when the BBC moved the popular service from its hallowed 4 p.m. slot on Wednesdays to a live broadcast on Sunday. Listeners saw it as a marginalisation of worship, and cathedrals often found it inconvenient to sing a special broadcast version of evensong, on what was already the busiest day of the week.
The BBC has kept the matter under review. Choral Evensong has proved popular on the BBC iPlayer facility on its website, which allows users to hear a programme for up to seven days after broadcast.
Roger Wright, the Controller of Radio 3, said: “We are pleased to be able to include two broadcasts of Choral Evensong from September. Scheduling it on Sundays has brought new listeners to the live broadcasts, though others have missed it on Wednesday afternoons.”
The Archdeacon Emeritus of Manchester, the Ven. Alan Wolstencroft, was one of those who petitioned Michael Grade, the BBC chairman, against the original move. He rejoiced on Tuesday that common sense had prevailed. “It’s tremendously good news. It will bring back into the listening audience a great number of people like myself and others, who go to church on Sundays; and give us the opportunity of a midweek act of worship. People who were on trains and in cars also looked forward to listening to it. It was an oasis.”
Sarah King, co-ordinator of the Association of English Cathedrals, was pleased that cathedrals would again be able to send out the message that worship takes place throughout the week, 365 days a year. “Midweek things can be accommodated much more easily. People were doing their best to go along with it, but they weren’t necessarily finding it very easy. It’s a good decision,” she said.
Professor John Harper, Emeritus Director of the Royal School of Church Music, was also delighted. “This endorsement of the popularity of the programme is encouraging to those who sustain the daily cycle of music and prayer in churches and cathedrals,” he said. “Listeners to the Sunday repeat will not be hearing the psalms, readings and collect set for that day, but it does mean that many more people will have the opportunity to hear the service. This is a welcome development.”
A BBC spokeswoman said on Tuesday: “We had a lot of feedback from listeners saying they liked it in the original slot, and, in repeating it on Sunday, we get the best of both worlds.
“It made sense to play to both audiences, old and new. It’s good news all round, really.”