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Evensong in Westminster Abbey

30 July 2019

A group of approx. 40 singers from the Northampton Bach Choir sang Evensong in Westminster Abbey on a wet Tuesday afternoon at the end of July, as the regular Abbey choir took a break over the summer.

The Abbey is steeped in history and holds a unique place in our national life. Since 1066 it has hosted coronations and royal burials, along with many other nationally important services. Edward the Confessor’s shrine is at the heart of the Abbey and over 3,000 famous and notable national figures are buried there.

The Abbey is a designated World Heritage site and a ‘Royal Peculiar’, an institution where the Dean is personally responsible to the monarch. The visit was arranged by our conductor Lee Dunleavy; concert manager Mark Gibson liaised the service details with the Abbey and arranged a coach for those who preferred to travel together. The vergers and canons of the Abbey were very welcoming amidst the many tourists.

The choir singing from their stalls in the quire

It was a joy to sing for the service in such a beautiful and majestic building filled with so much history, to be part of an ancient tradition of praising God on a daily basis. There is something very moving to know you are part of something which has been done regularly for so long; to realise that you are hearing the same biblical readings and singing the same psalms as so many have done for centuries. I was struck by a sense of wonder at taking part in this ancient tradition, listening to readings from scripture, reciting or singing the psalms and canticles, alongside praying for the needs of the world and local community. This regular worship is part of the worldwide practice of daily prayer, underpinning the work of the Abbey which employs 350 staff.
Northampton Bach Choir outside Westminster Abbey

We sang a mixture of music including Ayleward Responses, Henry Smart’s Evening Service in Bb major and the anthem Sing Praise to God by Francis Jackson. We learnt the music in three rehearsals, those who were in the congregation said they thought it had gone very well, and we certainly enjoyed the opportunity to lead worship in such a prestigious and ancient building.