Dorian Setting for Choral Evensong

A setting of the preces, responses, Kyrie and Lord's Prayer, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for BCP choral evensong.

The cathedral and college chapel choirs of the UK sing the service of Evensong from the Book of Common Prayer on a daily basis. To serve that need, there are more musical settings of that service than you can shake a proverbial stick at, and not much musical ground left to cover other than what one might politely describe as a challenging listen.

It was therefore with some surprise that I found myself writing a setting of my own. I had been singing a lot of modern plainchant and found myself imagining how Evensong might sound if the normal three-note melodies were replaced with something more tuneful, yet still modal. It all kind of snowballed from there.

One thing I was very clear about was that it should be usable in a parish context. While the aforementioned cathedrals are spoilt for choice, most of those settings are too hard for a parish choir to learn in a reasonable amount of time, or else they depend on having trebles who can hit top Gs and As. I wanted my setting to be easy to learn, easy to sing and with a comfortable ambitus.

For the responses, I could have just left them as pseudo-gregorian melodies, but for a challenge I decided to have a go at four-part plainchant. After all, it's not something you hear every day. I went right out of my comfort zone with some modern-sounding (yet still modal) harmonies, attempting to get some nice effects with a minimum of movement in the lower parts to keep it simple.

For the canticles, I wanted to go the other way and make them a bit more ‘soft rock’. As a result, they are much more chord-based with strong rhythm, but to keep them interesting I play around with time signatures a bit.

Summary information





Version 2.0

First public release.

MIDI previews: these are as they come from Lilypond, so not as sophisticated as they might be. In particular, the responses are presented in strict tempo, which is not how one would perform them.

Source code

This piece was written using Lilypond. The source code for it is available from my GitLab repository. To compile it yourself, you will also need my house style files.