What to expect at Choral Evensong

Choral Evensong is a beautiful and ancient service and many visitors find it a profoundly moving experience. We welcome visitors of all faiths and none to attend this special service. As one of the formal services of the Cathedral, it can be helpful to know what to expect before attending, so that you can participate with confidence. We’ll try to answer some of the most common questions here.

There will usually be people helping at the service who will be happy to answer any further or more specific questions you may have on the evening, and do feel free to contact us if there are any questions not answered here, which you would like answered before your visit.

We hope you enjoy your visit and look forward to seeing you soon!

Evensong is also livestreamed to our YouTube page, so you can also watch a service before attending if this would be useful.
Where can I sit?

While most seats are free to be sat in by the congregation, there are some seats which need to be left free for those who will be leading the service (who will process in as the service starts). If you avoid seats with lit candles, microphones, or laminated reserved signs, you should be free to sit in any other seats or stalls within St Hugh’s Choir.

Please do ask at the service if you would like assistance finding a seat – we are always happy to help.

When do I join in? (Do I have to join in?)

Evensong is an opportunity to be present to God through the beauty of choral music and the sacred architecture of the Cathedral. The only times where the congregation are invited to join with the words is during the Apostle’s Creed (when we also turn to face East) and at the very end with the words of the Grace. Both are printed in the order of service and marked in bold, should you wish to join in.

There are usually two hymns in the service, which you can join in with if you choose. The first is called the Office Hymn and is usually set to a plainchant melody and is sung alternately between a cantor and the choir/congregation. You are welcome to join in, although as the music is unusual, many people simply choose to listen. The second hymn is often better known and once again you can choose to join in or simply listen.

The limited involvement allows the words and music of the service to wash over you leaving plenty of space for personal reflection and meditation as you listen. This service reminds us that sometimes our relationship with God is not all about doing, and that sometimes we can simply be and receive God’s peaceful presence.

When do I sit and stand?

The order of service is marked (in red) with directions for when the congregation traditionally stands or sits. You are welcome to join in these movements at the appropriate times (many people watch the clergy or other congregation members and simply follow their lead). However, these are guidelines only and if this would be difficult or uncomfortable for you for any reason, then we would encourage you to feel confident in doing whatever is most appropriate for you.

Will incense be used?

Incense is not generally used at Evensong. However, there are occasions when the Church is celebrating a special feast day or festival when incense will be used as a part of the service. Any such festivals will be listed on the weekly service sheet (insert link), but do feel free to call and check beforehand if this would be problematic for you.

If incense is being used and you wish to attend but do not wish to be too close to the incense, then do sit towards the back of the choir stalls. Stewards should be able to direct you at the service to seats less affected by the smoke.

Where do I leave after the service?

After Evensong, the main west doors of the Cathedral are usually already closed for the night and so we invite everyone to leave by the Judgement Door, which is the door next to St Hugh’s Shrine, towards the south-east end of the Cathedral

Is a collection taken at this service?

On weekdays, no collection is taken at Evensong, however if you have enjoyed the service and wish to make a donation to support the future of the Cathedral’s choir and music programme, there is the opportunity to do so as you leave the service via a donation plate or electronic giving.

On weekend evenings a collection is taken during the service (electronic giving is available) and this goes to support the Cathedral and its wonderful worship and heritage for future generations.

What if I can’t stay for the whole service?

We know that sometimes parking and travel times prevent people from staying for a whole service. We would love to welcome you for the part you can make. We just ask that you sit near the exit and leave quietly as needed. Do ask about appropriate seats if you need to. Alternatively, some people prefer to find a place outside St Hugh’s Choir, where they can enjoy hearing the service and leave without being seen.

Can I take photos or film the service?

Photos and filming are not allowed in our services. Our services are live streamed and are therefore available to be rewatched on our YouTube channel. CD recordings of our choir are available from the Cathedral Shop.

Can I bring my dog?

Well-behaved dogs are welcome to accompany their owners to acts of worship.  Out of consideration for other worshippers you may be asked to sit in specific seats allocated by vergers or stewards.  If dogs make any noise, owners are asked to remove them promptly.

Is there a dress code?

You are welcome to attend our services in your regular clothes. There is no need to dress up or to wear anything special.

Are the toilets open during Evensong?

The toilets are situated in the Cloisters and are always available to worshippers during our services.