Spot the Catholic at Evensong

I was asked to sing yesterday for Choral Evensong at our neighbouring Anglican church,  St Nicholas of Myra, which is often referred to as the ‘mother church of Brighton.’ It is the oldest building in Brighton and dates from medieval times which of course means pre-reformation it would have been a Catholic church. The rood screen which has been recently restored, dates from 1480.

This Evensong service was the culmination of a ‘festival of Flowers and music’ which had been held in the parish over several days.

Inside the church were a series of floral displays, each representing one of the sacraments.

It is always a privilege to be asked to sing in other churches. At the end of the service yesterday,  the Vicar Fr. Robert Chavner, proudly announced a roll-call of local parishes who were represented in the choir yesterday, including my own, St Mary Magdalen’s.  A couple of singers from their choir will be coming to sing at out parish for our patronal Mass on 22nd July.

I have now sung for several Evensong services and I find them quite fascinating. So much of the backbone of  the musical heritage in the Church of England relies on a great polyphonic tradition and to do that justice,  you need a core of excellent singers. I am always so impressed with the structure in Anglican churches to promote good singing  to aid a prayerful liturgy. St Nicholas’ like many Anglican churches is affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music and the Choir Master is a paid position. They even have a team of bellringers.

(You can just about make out the bellringers in the background of this photo. They were apparently doing a ‘quarter-peel’ )

I am also always struck by the quality of singing amongst congregations in Anglican churches. No one seems to complain if you sing one too many verses of a hymn, in fact it is not uncommon that ALL the verses of a hymn are sung. Yesterday amongst all the sung prayers (preces) and the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis (which always seems to be affectionately known as ‘the Mag’ amongst singers) they sang four hymns, and of course they sang all the verses of those four hymns with great gusto.  And then there is the psalmody. This is where the Catholic is always ‘outed’ in an Anglican choir.  I apologised to the person standing next to me as I stumbled through the recitation, trying to work out when I was supposed to change note. She asked me afterwards how different our psalmody was. I could hear myself starting to explain that it was modal  and then thought she is going to wish she had never asked so I left it at that.

It was thoroughly enjoyable evening.   MORE PHOTOs HERE


3 thoughts on “Spot the Catholic at Evensong

  1. sixupman says:

    Many, many years ago, Choral Evensong was broadcast daily on the BBC Home [R4] Radio. In those times I could follow the service in my enlarged St. Andrew’s Missal.

  2. Frances Novillo says:

    ‘St Nicholas’ like many Anglican churches is affiliated with the Royal School of Church Music’

    I’m glad you had such a positive experience singing at St Nicholas, which is indeed affiliated to the RSCM, like many churches not only Anglican, but also URC, Methodist, and Roman Catholic, among others. I work for the organisation as the London and South East Advisor, and I’m based in my RC church of Mary Immaculate and St Gregory the Great in High Barnet. I’m a member of the (RC) Diocese of Westminster’s Music Committee and was a cantor at the Papal Mass in Cofton Park.

    The Royal School of Church Music is an ecumenical organisation, so churches (singers, musicians, choirs, and clergy) from all traditions benefit from our commitment to achieving the best use of good music in worship – whatever the resources, whatever the style. Please go to to find out more.

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