Choral Evensong at Duke Chapel

Choral Evensong

For centuries, the church has marked the transition from daytime to evening with psalms, prayer, and song. Duke Chapel's Choral Evensong follows this historic pattern, using the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer and featuring choral and organ music from the English cathedral tradition. The service lasts approximately forty-five minutes.

Time and Location

Choral Evensong is typically held on the second and fourth Sundays of the month at 4:00 p.m., during the academic year. See the schedule of this year's Evensong services. People attending the service in the Chapel's main sanctuary are invited to sit in the first set of choir stalls in the chancel area where the altar is located.

Ministers and Musicians

Choral Evensong is led by Chapel staff ministers, as well as ministers from some Duke Religious Life groups and local churches. The Duke Evensong Singers leads the service's music.

Directions and Parking

When coming from off campus, navigate to 125 Science Drive, Durham, NC. Paid parking is available at that address in the Bryan Center Garage at 125 Science Drive with ADA parking in the adjacent Bryan Center Surface Lot.

Webcasts and Recordings

Watch Choral Evensong services live online on the Duke Chapel YouTube channel, as well as on TV on channel 12 of the Duke Hospital TV System and channel 110 on the Duke Campus Vision TV system. Watch recordings of Evensong services below or visit the full archives.

Music for Spring 2024

Choral Evensong combines music, scripture, and prayer and is celebrated in cathedrals, churches, and chapels around the world, drawing people from diverse backgrounds and faith traditions. Its roots stretch back to early Temple worship, and its timeless beauty and contemplative nature make it a cherished tradition for regular worshipers, and for those seeking solace or reflection in their busy lives. Evensong has inspired composers to write some of their most beautiful music. Music of the great English composer of sacred music, Herbert Howells, will feature prominently this year.

January 7—Epiphany Lessons & Carols

January 21—Vespers for the Vatican
Responses: Lambardi Domine ad adiuuandum me festina
Psalm: Palestrina Super flumina
Canticle: Palestrina Magnificat primi toni a 8
Anthem: L'Heritier Nigra sum

February 11
Psalm: Howells Like as the hart
Canticles: Howells (Gloucester Service)
Anthem: Howells O pray for the peace
Benediction: Howells God be in my head

February 25—Evensong Singers Concert: Choral and Instrumental music by Herbert Howells

March 10
Music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, including Justorum animae (The Souls of the Righteous) and Beati quorum via (Blessed are they who walk in the way of the Lord) together with his Evening Service in B flat.

March 24—Palm Sunday Evensong
Introit: Weelkes/Gibbons Hosanna to the Son
Responses: Sanders
Psalm: Sanders Reproaches
Anthem: Wood Glory and Honour

March 31—Easter Evensong
Introit: Wood This Joyful Eastertide
Responses: Rose
Psalm: Anglican chant (Easter Anthems)
Canticles Howells (St Paul's Service)
Anthem: Wesley Blessed be the God and Father

April 28—Victoria's Vespers
Introit: O Domine Jesu Christe
Responses: Domine ad adjuvandum
Psalm: Lauda Jerusalem
Canticle: Magnificat primi toni
Anthem: Quam pulchri sunt
Benediction: Ave Maria a 8

May 9—Ascension Day Evensong
Introit: Weelkes All people clap your hands
Canticles: Howells
Anthem: Finzi God is gone up

Music for Fall 2023

September 10
Introit: Brewer, Prevent us, O Lord
Responses: Radcliffe
Psalm 149: Howells
Canticles: Howells, Unison Service
Anthem: Howells, My eyes for beauty pine

September 24
Introit: Byrd, Sing Joyfully
Responses: Byrd
Psalm motet: Byrd, Praise our Lord all ye Gentiles
Canticle: Byrd, Great Service (Nunc dimittis)
Anthem: Byrd, O God, the Proud
Benediction: Byrd, Prevent us, O Lord

October 8
Introit: Howells, Salvator mundi (from Requiem)
Responses: Martin
Psalm 80:7–17: Watson
Canticles: Howells, New College Service
Anthem: Martin, Te lucis

October 22—Vespers from Vienna
Introit: Handl (Gallus), Viri Sancti
Psalm: Mozart, Laudate Dominum
Canticle: Tuma, Nunc dimittis
Anthem: Haydn, Insanae et vanae curae
Benediction: Brahms, Geistliches Lied

November 12
Introit: White, The Lord bless us and keep us
Responses: Martin
Psalm 78:1–13: Stafford Smith
Canticles: Howells, Westminster Abbey Service
Anthem: Howells, I heard a voice from heaven (Requiem)

November 26—Vespers for Versailles
Introit: Rameau, Laboravi
Psalm: Charpentier, Super flumina H. 170
Canticle: Titelouze, Magnificat sexti toni
Anthem: Dumont, Media vita
Benediction: Charpentier, Salve Regina H. 24

December 10
Introit: Ord, Adam lay ybounden
Responses: Martin
Psalm 85:1–2,8–13: Parry
Canticles: Howells, Collegium Regale
Anthem: Britten, Hymn to the Virgin
Benediction: Joubert, There is no rose

About the Service

Whether you are accustomed or not to Choral Evensong, we welcome you without reservation or expectation. Feel free to find a quiet corner of the chapel in which to be alone in prayer or, if you prefer, sit amongst the choir in the stalls. The music is sung by the choir offering praise to God on behalf of those gathered here and around the world; the people join silently in prayer alongside them and in speaking together the Confession, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and in singing the Hymns.

Rooted in the prayer and wisdom of ancient monastic life, Choral Evensong today embodies Duke University’s motto, Eruditio et Religio, joining faith with learning. Through this liturgy, we enter a realm beyond ordinary experience, surpassing known thoughts and understandings. In Duke Chapel—an outward and visible symbol in stone and glass of the infinitude of God’s steadfast love—our purpose is to render in music, motions and speech, glimpses of God’s beauty and to open to all who come here the way of grace and peace.

The service derives from the medieval church and is offered here in classical form from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, which sought to harmonize Catholic and Protestant traditions. It is deeply rooted in ancient texts, mirroring the worship of the Twelve Apostles and, before them, of Israel exiled in Babylon “singing the Lord’s song in a strange land” (Psalm 137:4). It is a form of worship offered by Jesus himself in the Temple in Jerusalem and in the Upper Room following the Last Supper.

The liturgy follows a set pattern.  Following the Opening Sentences, Confession, Absolution, and Lord’s Prayer, the Choir sings the Preces (short petitions) and the Psalms appointed for this day in the evening. The Psalms are precious to us because they formed Our Lord’s Hymnbook, whose power and beauty cannot be surpassed. He prayed and sang these words regularly in the Temple. They embrace the range of human emotion: not only praise, love, joy, and hope but also fear, anger, penitence, and despair. It was from the cross that Our Lord prayed the words of Psalms 22 and 31: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” and then: “Into thy hands  I commend my spirit.” The Passion narratives make frequent use of the Psalms.  By singing and hearing them sung, we directly share the prayers that Jesus prayed, and join with Christians throughout history who have made this their form of praise and worship.

Evensong brings before us God’s plan of salvation. Following the Psalms, the Old Testament lesson recalls God’s promise to Abraham and looks forward to the coming of a messiah. The Magnificat links the Old and New Testaments. It is the splendid song of the Blessed Virgin Mary before Jesus was born and has become the Church’s greatest hymn of the Incarnation, by which God came to earth to save us. Every time we hear the Magnificat we are bowed low before the great miracle: how God gave His Son to became one of us. Following the New Testament lesson, from which we learn about Jesus’s life and teaching here on earth, the Choir sings the Nunc dimittis, the prayer of Simeon, an aged man who longed to see the Christ before he died.  Beholding Jesus presented in the Temple, he rejoiced: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.”

All then stand and, facing the altar used at the Holy Eucharist, address God in the words of the Apostles’ Creed. This credo summarizes the faith of all those who, generation after generation in the Church, respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: He died for us so that we might live in Him.

The Officiant and the Choir then sing The Lesser Litany and the Collects: set prayers that with simplicity collect our thoughts, bidding God to strengthen our faith and protect us from all perils as evening falls. The Anthem follows, meditating on Biblical and Prayer Book texts and providing a sermon in music.

Distinct from the noisy world around us, Choral Evensong anchors us in the Presence of the Living Christ. It thickens our imagination for mysteries yet undisclosed and realities yet unknown. We hope that the prayers of this Evensong, offered amidst the beauty of Duke Chapel, might help you to come closer to Our Lord who both commands us to pray and promises to hear us.