Evensong Handout, Rite I for Lent

Over on the Rubric Facebook page there was a question about whether any churches do Evensong from the prayer book any more. The answer is, yes, they do…

Just to distinguish, there are three main kinds of evening prayer services:

  • Evening Prayer where the service is prayer from the Book of Common Prayer,
  • (Congregational) Evensong where the officiant and the people sing the service together (the appointed psalms may either be read or sung—I’ve seen it both ways), or
  • Choral Evensong where the service is sung between the officiant and the choir. The congregation may chime in on the canticles or hymns—or not. Usually everything is sung and it uses either the 1928 or the 1662 format.

M’s church has been doing a congregational evensong during Lent and Advent. Attendance varies, sometimes it’s as high as 15, sometimes it’s just been 3 or 4. Usually it’s in the 10 or 11 range, but numbers aren’t the driving goal—offering Evensong is.

For several of the participants over the last couple of seasons, it was the first time they’d ever been to an Evensong. Too, sometimes M invited others to lead—once a priest from another congregation, and once our younger daughter H wanted to give it a try.  It worked because we used a format that was pretty easy. My preference is always to use the book, but I don’t find that practical in this instance because you have to know when and what to sing and when to move from hymnal to prayer book. Instead, we worked up a 1-page front-and-back sheet that contained the main body of the Office without hymns, psalms, or canticles. This allowed us to make one run of sheets that we could laminate and use over and over throughout the season.

Also, when you get into hymns and such you start running afoul of copyright regulations. Virtually all of the hymns and much of the composed service music is under copyright.  Both the text and tunes found in the hymnal for the specific service texts for Evening Prayer are in the public domain because, in the case of the prayer book, the texts are explicitly in the public domain. In the case of the tunes, they are traditional and have been used for hundreds of years. What *is* copyrighted is the typesetting of them in the hymnal. That’s why you can’t copy-and-paste from the hymnal without a license: the image of the contents are copyrighted even if the contents are not.

While M’s church does have one of the big rubber-stamp music licenses because they livestream and YouTube their service (which you can watch here), I opted to dispense with the issue altogether by setting the music myself with a basic music notation font and judicious use of the Paint utility.

So—what you’ll find here is a Rite I Evensong for Lenten congregational use that fits on a one-pager. [Now, with all the notes in the Dismissal!] Officiants will need their prayer books as some of their texts are partial or missing to save space and, of course, no propers are included.

The Confession is included and there’s a reason for that… When M first started this, she was doing it with a clergy colleague. We handed out the sheets, and he began with the Confession—which wasn’t on the sheets. This caused unintentional chaos, so I added it and it’s been on since. (As a basic rule, if you’ve given a handout for an unfamiliar service, you’d be advised to go with what’s on the handout even if it’s not the way you’d normally do it. Finish the service, then address the handout; don’t deviate in the middle [or beginning] and confuse everybody…)

6 Replies to “Evensong Handout, Rite I for Lent”

  1. Not all texts and tunes in The Hymnal 1982 are in the public domain – see pgs. 931 and 932-936.

  2. That’s true–I did check there first. However, what I see there is nonsensical. The music of S-26 (the opening preces) is not copyrighted. It claims that the text of S-26 is copyrighted. However, the content of the text cannot be, as it comes straight from the prayer book which is explicitly public domain. Hence, it is the representation of that text that may be copyrighted, rather than the words themselves.

    (I think I see your point—I was thinking specifically of the bits I was using and the language above seemed pretty broad, so I clarified it.)

  3. This is a great (and attractively done) resource. I could see us using it in my parish! Thank you.
    (Is it just me or are there notes failing to show up in the dismissal music?)

  4. Dear Derek, you are perfectly right about the copyright stuff. When I moved from Ciney, the nuns gave me three full boxes of all the Church songs that had been written in French since the 1950’s. And they were all copyrighted… and out of date. However, the traditional hymns are uncopyrighted in English. Fr Georges Pfalzgraf, Fr Yves Kéler, and myself have tried to do the same thing in French: French uncopyrighted hymns. They exist. And there is the Hymnal project in English. Imo, only the uncopyrighted stuff will succeed in the future, as it has already done.

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