We had already planned to attend the Evensong service at King’s College Chapel, which on this date was featuring the combined choirs of King’s and St. John’s colleges, which sounded pretty cool to us. It turned out it sounded cool to the BBC as well, as they would be recording it for broadcast (available for streaming — even in North America — with their iPlayer here until August 7th). The grand scale of the event meant that we had to queue up ahead of time; the day being pleasant, this was no hardship, and we had a nice chat with the people near us in line, from Quebec and Utrecht, respectively. The service was wonderful, with the music (lots of Herbert Howells, who’s rather like Vaughan Williams) filling the huge space.


“Awesome” is an appropriate word for this experience. The building taken by itself is so majestically beautiful. Then add our own four-decade history of wistfully listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols broadcast from here. This evening’s service was sung jointly by the King's College and the St John's College choirs of Cambridge specially to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the completion of the King’s College Chapel in 1515, and the place was packed. But it didn’t lose its sanctity for all that. And that ethereal descant soaring above the organ and the congregation....

As Karen said, the music was wonderful; much of it by Howells. I’ve scanned and made a PDF of the order of service, which gives titles and composers as well as most of the text of the service, if you’d like to “follow along” with the BBC transmission. Here is the music information in brief:

Evensong sung jointly by the choirs of King’s and St John’s colleges in King’s College chapel

  • Organ Prelude • Master Tallis’ Testament • Howells
  • Introit 365 • _King Henry VI’s Prayer • Ley
  • Responses • Racliffe
  • Psalms 42, 43 • S Wesley, anon.
  • Magnificat and Nunc dimittis • Collegium Regale • Howells
  • Anthem 299 • “I was glad” • C H H Parry
  • Te Deum • Collegium Regale • Howells
  • Hymn 362 (t. 185) “Glorious things of thee are spoken”
  • Organ Voluntary • Psalm Prelude Set 2 No. 3 • Howells

After the service, we drove a long way back to our home base in Quorn, by way of the village of Grantchester (which really deserved a whole day by itself). PBS/ITV viewers will recognize it as the setting of the excellent Grantchester series.


King’s College

With a bit of the Masters’ Lodge at Clare College in the foreground:

[More photos forthcoming]