The best decision I made while in London was touring inside Westminster Abbey on Thursday, 12th July. You thought the Abbey was gorgeous on television? Wait until you see it in person. I remember struggling to keep my eyes open for the Royal Wedding and watching Kate and Prince William look into each other’s eyes to the song, “This Is The Day.” They added more beauty to Kate Middleton’s stunning wedding dress and made you feel like you’re in the 13th century. Attending the Evensong in a church with an overwhelming history convinced me to attend a morning service before I depart.
People interested in attending the Evensong were instructed to wait at a group of chairs after the tour and are seated in the Quire next to the Westminster Abbey Choir. Late arrivals sit closer to the altar and further from the choir. I would strongly advise to go around 2 o’clock in the afternoon because time is allotted to look around, shop, and wait until 5 o’clock for the Evensong. The church closes at 4pm and the last entry is at 3:20pm. You won’t be complaining about the hour-long wait when the organist strikes the first key.
Individuals don’t have to be associated with a religion in order to attend the Evensong. The public is always welcomed. Instructions are displayed at each chair of how the service works, when to stand and kneel, what to pray, and what songs will be sung as well as a pamphlet of choral services for the week and the Book of Psalms. An organist started the 40-minute service followed by the entrance of the choir where everyone had to stand. The Introit (Psalm 149:1, 3a, 4a) along with the Versicles and Responses, a reading from Psalm 29, the song “Magnificat quarti toni,” and “Nunc Dimittis” in B flat. There were also a few times the public had to kneel during prayers. Cushions are available for those sitting in the Quire but not for people sitting in folding chairs.
I was so mesmerized by the Gregorian-like songs and the intricate designs in the ceilings. Queen Latifah said it best in her movie “The Last Holiday” when she gazed at the ceiling of Grandhotel Pupp and said to the hotel desk clerk, “Don’t that ceiling ever make you want to cry?”
I took a music course at Eastern Arizona College, World of Music, in 2010 and the Evensong reminded me of the Gregorian Chants thousands of years ago. It also made me appreciate how far the Gregorian chants have come because they hardly used the musical notes we use now. It was a series of dots that went up and down with Latin lyrics.
If you ever attend an Evensong, close your eyes and listen. You’d be amazed at what your ears hear if you eliminate your fifth sense. Bring some tissue you criers because the ceilings with the music will overwhelm your heart and senses. However, sleep deprivers will nod in and out during the 40-minute service.
In addition, hearing the church and country’s history made me feel closer to the church. Londoner or not, religious or not, touring the Abbey and attending a service or Evensong deserves a spot on your bucket list.