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/ 20 May 2020

Hackney young people take part in star-studded Virtual Evensong service in aid of Coronavirus emergency fund

Hackney Children's Choir at St Paul's

Three young people from Hackney representing each of the Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – joined over 300 singers and a host of celebrities on Tuesday night in a first-of-its-kind Virtual Evensong Service. The service was organised by the Rodolphus Foundation and featured stars including Stephen Fry, Alexander Armstrong, Simon Russell Beale and the Revd Richard Coles.

The Revd Niall Weir, Rector of St Paul’s Church in West Hackney, curated the prayers for the service and asked the three young people to represent the Hackney borough and their respective faiths. Each person lead a prayer in the service, which together comprised over 950 audio and video submissions from around the world.

Choral Evensong is a 500-year-old tradition, the ‘song’ of voices sounding together at the ‘even’ point between the active day and restful night – daily contemplation for people of all faiths and none. It is sung around the world free of charge and free of religious commitment.

The project, in association with ChoralEvensong.org, was organised in aid of the Cathedral Choirs’ Emergency Fund, set up by the Friends of Cathedral Music and the Ouseley Church Music Trust. The fund aims to raise £1million to support choirs that are facing hardship in the face of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Revd Niall Weir’s church, St Paul’s West Hackney, works in partnership with St Paul’s Cathedral in running Hackney Choral, which holds two weekly young people’s choirs and a series of summer courses for local children. They enjoy a close relationship with the Rodolphus Foundation, whose generous bursary scheme helps Hackney Choral singers attend their renowned residential choral courses in English Cathedrals and College Chapels.

The Revd Niall Weir, Rector of St Paul’s Church in West Hackney said:

“This service was a wonderful and unique gathering of people from all walks of life. A key theme of the service was that of unity and it’s been a great joy for me to see three young people from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith groups here in Hackney and within my parish, wonderfully embodying this spirit of unity by each leading one of the prayers in the service. Hackney is world-renowned for its creativity and diversity, so it is fitting that the borough has an important role in this unique Evensong.

“Psalm 133 – which tells us how wonderful a thing it is when people live together in unity – will be sung in the service. We’re also being true to Psalm 84, which tells us that when we’re in the vale of misery – which we most certainly are now – we should use it for a well. I like to think that the Virtual Evensong will be just that.”

Speaking before the service, Ralph Allwood, The Rodolfus Foundation’s musical director said:

“I am touched by the range of singers who have contributed. I have had some wonderful letters telling me how contributing has brought them great joy during lonely lockdown. We so miss bringing beautiful music to beautiful buildings. We have highly experienced professionals and young choristers contributing, with some families singing together in their beloved evensong, so sorely missed at the moment. It has taken a month to come together and we hope it will give as much pleasure to those listening to it as it has to those putting it together.

“Choral Evensong is one of England’s greatest inventions, devised by Thomas Cranmer as one of his reforms and which cost him his life, burnt at the stake. The two canticles have a beautiful balance between old and young, male and female. It now has an impact all over the world.”

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