We Evensang at Evensong Posted on January 21st, 2015 by

Westminster Front (1 of 1)

Westminster Abbey

The past three days have been filled with two incredible performances, one trip to Stonehenge, and countless London adventures.

Monday began with an intimate tour of Westminster Abbey, site of nearly 1,000 years of royal weddings and coronations. Westminster marks the final resting place of several hundred of the most influential and important figures in English and global history, including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Henry Purcell, and dozens of English monarchs, from Elizabeth I to Edward the Confessor. It was a surreal experience to be surrounded by such greatness, both in the ornate design of the church and in the impeccable legacies of its eternal residents.

After strolling about the Westminster cloisters, the group moved on to St. Paul’s Cathedral, a glorious, elegant building that has dominated the London skyline since the 17th century. The choir had the incredible opportunity to participate in a traditional Anglican evensong in St. Paul’s. This service was an illuminating cultural, religious, and musical experience, including Anglican ritual, prayer, and chant singing. Seated in traditional “quire” seating with the choir divided in half and facing inwards towards the other section, we sang familiar Christian prayers enhanced by a few well-wishes for the Queen and kingdom.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

The architectural splendor of St. Paul’s is matched by its acoustical ingenuity. As we sang Stephen Paulus’ “Pilgrim’s Hymn” as the Evensong’s anthem, the massive dome of the cathedral sublimely amplified each chord and distributed the rich sound throughout each wing of the cross-shaped building. The memory of aiding in a precious Anglican tradition in a cornerstone cathedral of that religion is one beyond value. After a strange five-day gap without singing together, it was incredibly satisfying to sing alongside one another again in one of the most gorgeous cathedrals in the world.

And through all the days that follow so fast,
We trust in you.
-Stephen Paulus, “The Pilgrim’s Hymn”

The next day (Jan 20), the group enjoyed another day of free exploration of the city. Visits included the Globe Theater, Hyde Park, the London Eye, and the James Bond Museum, among many, many others. After concluding our various adventures, the group boarded buses to Grosvenor Chapel, an 18th century church in London’s opulent Mayfair District, for our first full concert of the tour.

Our first tour "building block," a short speech given by a choir member before performances.

Our first tour “building block,” a short speech given by a choir member before performances.

The Grosvenor audience was a lovely mix, featuring the companion tour, staff from Sovereign Tours (the fabulous company managing the tour), a group of theatre students from Drake University, a Gustavus alumnus currently living in Germany, and four distinguished British war veterans in full military regalia. These veterans are “Chelsea Pensioners,” a select group of decorated servicemen from World War II onwards who reside together in a retirement community in London. In a reception after the concert, these friendly and venerable veterans shared their stories with the tour group. One of the Pensioners, a Scotsman, was moved to tears by the choir’s performance of the traditional Scottish ballad “Loch Lomond.”

The Gustavus alumnus, Sven ’88, was a tennis player at Gustavus, and was therefore profoundly shaped by Steve Wilkinson, the founder and inspirational leader of the college’s Tennis & Life program. Sven was able to live-stream the performance to Steve, who Sven describes as a “second father.”

Singing the same set of songs night after night ensures that different phrases and pieces stand out each performance. A line in the piece “Homeward Bound” was particularly resonant last night, capturing the gratitude to the parents, peers, companions, directors, professors, tour guides, administrators, and singers who have made this emotional and inspirational trip possible.

Photo: Daniel Felton

Photo: Daniel Felton

Set me free to find my calling,
and I’ll return to you somehow.
-Martha Keen & Jay Althouse, “Homeward Bound”

Our four days in London were beyond incredible. The grandeur and diversity of the city assured that every visitor could seek out what speaks to them. We all walked away with personal favorite memories, ranging from taking in the sights of the city atop the London Eye or St. Paul’s, to soaking in the diverse energy of Camden Market, to basking in the genius of Renaissance masters, to sharing a pub meal with close friends, to being moved to tears in the presence of the manuscript of a lifelong favorite novel.

The tour group departed this morning to roll over green pastures and rolling hills to Bath, with an en route visit to Stonehenge. We are off to explore the ancient, beautiful city of Bath before preparing for our second concert, at Bath’s St. Michael Church. Enjoy the photos below, including rare shots from St. Paul’s Cathedral! Thanks to Daniel Felton ’15 for his photographs.



  1. Anne Legeros says:

    Thank you for posting these wonderful updates!

  2. Diane Alderton says:

    I had the pleasure of being in the audience at both St Paul’s and Grosvenor Chapel, I travelled up from North East England with Elizabeth Hable’s mom and grandmother. A truly wonderful experience for three of us. You guys were just amazing it was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of it.

    Enjoy the remainder of your tour I know you will be ‘blowing the socks off’ the British Isles and France.

  3. Alisa Rosenthal says:

    Particularly moving to read about live streaming the performance for Steve Wilkinson in light of his passing yesterday. I’m glad he was able to hear the choir one last time.

  4. Jana Swenson says:

    Thanks Sam Panzer for incredibly well written blog!! Informative and inspiring!!!