A GROUP of enthusiasts is hoping to spread the word about the delights of choral evensong by setting up a website listing services across the UK.
The site, http://choralevensong.org, will formally launch on 22 November, the feast of St Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians, but it is already up and running. It was conceived by members of the Hampstead Church Music Trust, based at St John’s, in the north-west London suburb, and has been put together by Guy Hayward, a former choral scholar at Trinity, Cambridge, who sings regularly with several London choirs.
He said: “We have this wonderful tradition of choral evensong, yet when you want to go to anywhere but your own church to listen, it’s quite hard to find what services are happening, when, where, and what music is being played or sung. We felt very frustrated.
“So we came up with the idea of having one website to bring it all together in a universal format. You could just put in your postcode or address, and it would find the nearest one to you — or wherever else you wanted to go.”
The website contains details of each church, its type of choir, service times, and contact details, plus a link to each church’s music list, so people can see exactly what is being sung.
Mr Hayward sees it as a way of attracting new people into church. “It’s one of the most accessible services for those that may be slightly resistant to going to church. There is relatively little liturgy, and the music is so uplifting. The church is finding it hard to attract people; so we thought: ‘Let’s go with something that will interest them’.
“It is a move to try to restore faith in faith, if you like. It’s almost like a back doorway in, finding church again, and seeing the point of it. Evensong offers a very peaceful moment in the day: a point between day and night where people can meditate and contemplate in this stillness, and not have to be called upon to pledge allegiance in any particular way.”
They initially planned to list just cathedrals, Cambridge and Oxford colleges, and some larger churches, but soon realised that many more parish churches were doing it. So far, the site lists about 350 across the country.
“It’s amazing” Mr Hayward said. “Some churches you would never think would do it might have 70 people in their choir doing evensong quite regularly. There is a huge tradition going on, and it needs to be publicised. We want to spread the appeal beyond the ‘usual sort’ who would go for it. It’s for everyone — not just white, middle-class, highly educated people.”