Choristers join Stephen Fry and Alexander Armstrong for virtual choral Evensong service

19 May 2020, 17:53 | Updated: 19 May 2020, 17:56

Virtual Evensong Teaser

By Helena Asprou

The timeless church service, with words by Stephen Fry and music from 250 musicians, to soothe the nation and support singers during COVID-19 lockdown.

Stephen Fry will be one of the hosts of a virtual choral Evensong tonight which will feature over 250 singers and some of Britain’s best-loved personalities.

Streaming live on Facebook and YouTube, the Evensong will also feature Classic FM weekend presenter Alexander Armstrong, actor Simon Russell Beale and the Reverend Richard Coles.

And it’s all for a good cause – the musical display hopes to raise £1million for the Cathedral Choirs’ Emergency Fund, set up by the Friends of Cathedral Music and the Ouseley Church Music Trust to support choirs that may be struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ralph Allwood, The Rodolfus Foundation’s musical director said: “I am touched by the range of singers who have contributed. I have had some wonderful letters telling me how contributing has brought them great joy during lonely lockdown. We so miss bringing beautiful music to beautiful buildings.

“We have highly experienced professionals and young choristers contributing, with some families singing together in their beloved Evensong, so sorely missed at the moment. It has taken a month to come together and we hope it will give as much pleasure to those listening to it as it has to those putting it together.”

Read more: the best live-streamed classical concerts this week >

English actor, comedian and writer, Stephen Fry
English actor, comedian and writer, Stephen Fry. Picture: Getty

What is choral Evensong?

Sung around the world, choral Evensong is a 500-year-old tradition that blends voices together at the ‘even’ point of day and night, offering a moment of peace and contemplation – and in these uncertain times, tonight’s performance is all the more symbolic.

Speaking about the history behind the tradition, Allwood added: “Choral Evensong is one of England’s greatest inventions, devised by Thomas Cranmer as one of his reforms and which cost him his life, burnt at the stake. The two canticles have a beautiful balance between old and young, male and female. It now has an impact all over the world.”

Produced by Alexander James, a Tonmeister student and employee at Chandos Records, and in association with, the heartwarming project brings together more than 950 video and audio submissions from singers worldwide and includes psalms, a hymn, prayers, readings and an improvisation using endangered birds’ songs recorded in Dorset woodland.

Tonight’s Evensong is being hosted by The Rodolfus Foundation.

Rodolfus Choir sings Tallis 'If Ye Love Me' in Choral Evensong

If Ye Love Me by Thomas Tallis ❤️ This is all part of a Virtual Choir project from The Rodolfus Foundation to create a Choral Evensong. Watch the full concert on Tuesday 19 May on YouTube – even Stephen Fry's getting involved! 👉

Posted by Classic FM on Friday, 1 May 2020

Virtual Choral Evensong: Order of Service

Opening Voluntary – played by James Lancelot, Canon Organist Emeritus at Durham Cathedral.
Introit - Thomas Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, sung by an octet of Rodolfus Choir members.
Preces and Responses – William Smith and Edward Naylor.
Psalms 126 (chant George M. Garrett) and Psalm 133 (chant Edward Elgar), introduced by the Rev’d Tim Harling.
The First Lesson - read by Stephen Fry who has chosen the story of David and Goliath from 1 Samuel.
Magnificat – George Dyson’s Evening Service in D, accompanied by Andrew Lumsden, organist and director of music at Winchester Cathedral.
Second Lesson - read by Simon Russell Beale who chose 1 Corinthians 13, read from the Authorised Version of the Bible. King James Version of 1 Corinthinas: 13.
Nunc Dimittis – Tomás Luis de Victoria.
Hymn - All my hope on God is founded (tune: Michael) by Herbert Howells accompanied by David Goode in Eton College Chapel, and by Oliver Walker at Repton College Chapel for the last verse (descant – John Rutter).
Anthem - Hubert Parry’s I Was Glad, voted for by 450 people, with an introduction by Alexander Armstrong and the semi-chorus section sung by members of VOCES8.
Prayers - collated by the Rev’d Niall Weir and the blessing is given by the Rev’d Richard Coles.
Voluntary - JS Bach’s St Anne Prelude played by Mark Shepherd from Charterhouse School Chapel.

Watch The Rodolfus Foundation’s virtual choral Evensong on YouTube and Facebook tonight (Tuesday 19 May) at 6.30pm BST.