[by Patrick ’09]
On Tuesday, I went to Trinity College chapel for evensong. I expect most people
are unfamiliar with this tradition, so it deserves some explanation:
There are 30+ constituent colleges to Cambridge, each meant to serve the every
need of its students. Most of them have a chapel, a dean, and a choir.
According to Anglican tradition, there should be prayers every evening, and the
choir gives it voice (hence, evensong). In reality, only one college (King’s)
manages to do it every day, but everyone else sings Sunday and at least one
A good choir is a thing of great pride for a college, and they will entice good
musicians with scholarships, free dinners, etc, etc. Some choirs have
reputations all their own – Trinity happens to be one of them.
Since I sing with my own college choir most days, I rarely get to go hear
others. But I had time off this week. So at 6.15 Tuesday, I walked into
Trinity chapel with all the pretense of being a real Trinity student and sat
down in one of the long, sideways stalls.
**Sorry I don’t have any pictures of the actual thing – it’s not nice to take
pictures during the service, but I have some informal pictures that I will post
Everything is candle lit. The choir process in in two neat rows, followed by the
dean and cantor, all dressed in long robes. They sing a lot of the same texts
every day but to different music. In fact, most of our job is constantly
learning new music; we may repeat a few favorites, but generally, the program
is fresh throughout the year. On this particular day, they sang the Byrd Second
Service (yes, it’s a lovely piece).
Choir is one of the truly special things that I would never get to do in America
(you’ve already heard about punting and formals). Most singers are not known for
being able to learn music, but quick rehearsals and sight-reading are routine
here. Our conductor says it’s an English thing, although I think it’s just a
difference in training. In any case, I am rapidly expanding my musical
knowledge with every service. It’s all part of this *other* education that
we’re supposed to be getting at Cambridge; frankly, it’s the one I prefer.