On April 14, a number of Utah’s Anglican and secular choirs will raise their voices in celebration of the season and of a church choral tradition known as evensong.
Evensong, said Robb Trujillo, a member of the St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church choir, became a tradition in the Anglican rite during the 16th Century, during the great outpouring of the English arts under such monarchs as Henry VII, Edward VI, Elizabeth I and James I. The rite of Evensong, he said, was established during Henry and Edward’s reigns, after the Church of England formally severed ties with the Catholic Church and became its own religious body. The rite is an adaptation of vespers and compline, evening prayer and music services the Catholic Church has practiced for centuries and, Trujillo added, has flourished particularly well among the United States’ Episcopal (Anglican) churches since the country’s founding.
“Although choral evensong is a service of prayer, it also has very strong artistic and aesthetic value,” said Trujillo, noting that much music for the service was created in the 16th Century. For this reason, he said, people of all faiths can enjoy the evening’s performance. Further, the event will also be gay and transgender-friendly, as it was organized in part by Integrity Utah, a ministry in the local Episcopal Diocese for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people.
The performance, however, will be a little different than the average evensong service. St. Stephen’s choir will be joined by three choirs from Northern Utah: St. James Episcopal Church in Midvale, Salt Lake City’s All Saints Episcopal Church and the Tooele County Choral Society which, while a secular choir, will nonetheless perform evensong music for the evening’s performance, which will 90 minutes long. The event will also be a competition, at the end of which the Ver Stratten Cup for Excellence in Sacred Music will be awarded to the choir a panel of judges deems to be the best. The award, said Trujillo, is named for the late Episcopal priest Stan Ver Stratten, who was an ardent supporter of sacred music.
“We want to remember his and his wife Judy’s love of music,” he said.
The judging panel will consist of Rep. Christine Johnson, D-Salt Lake City, QSaltLake publisher and editor Michael Aaron and the Rev. Dr. Fred Quinn, a noted music historian.
“The idea behind [the performance] is to gather musicians in the community for collaboration and fostering community relationships,” said Trujillo. “The beauty of the service and the different facets of it lend itself well to have other choirs gather together and present Easter anthems and songs geared towards Easter.”
Additionally, the performance’s structure itself encourages such collaboration. While each choir has chosen an individual piece to sing, the four will nonetheless combine to sing a service written by composer David Lee, which Trujillo calls a “modern interpretation of classic texts.
Choral Evensong will be held April 14 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 4615 S. 3200 West in West Valley City. Doors will open for dinner at 6 p.m., the cost of which is a donation of any amount. The performance will begin at 7 p.m. To RSVP please call 435-849-2961.