by John Rountree
Collon Parish Church in Co Louth is laid out in collegiate style with the pews facing across the aisle. It was designed by the Revd Daniel Augustus Beaufort who modelled it on Kings’ College Chapel, Cambridge and opened it in September 1815. The unusual pew layout was designed to facilitate a choir.
This was wonderfully demonstrated on the evening of Sunday 28 June 2015 when a visiting choir from Dublin under the direction of David O’Shea joined the local congregation plus lots of visitors for a full formal Choral Evensong. The service was led by Revd Michael Graham. The organist was Siobhan Kilkelly.
The service commenced with the ancient Greek canticle “Hail gladdening light” – set to music by Charles Wood, followed by the hymn “Angel voices, ever singing”. The responses sung by Revd Graham and the choir were set by Sir John Stevenson. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were beautifully sung by the choir to the settings of Herbert Brewer. The anthem was from the poignant and spiritual poem “Expectans Expectavi” by Charles Sorley, setting Charles Wood. This was followed by the hymn “God, who made the earth and heaven”. The final hymn after the sermon was the very fitting “The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended”.
It was a lovely service on a bright, lovely and atmospheric late June evening. There was a large turnout - about 150 attended, including 20 with the choir. Afterwards enjoyable refreshments were available from the ladies of the parish.
Choral evensong is an ancient service in the Anglican liturgy coming from medieval times, and is normally heard in cathedrals and college chapels. It was wonderful to hear it in a local village parish church which appears purpose built for it and having its 200th birthday this year. People could be heard humming hymns for days! One suspects that DAB (as Revd Beaufort was affectionately known) would have been thrilled!
John Rountree is a member of Ardee and Collon Select Vestry, and is chairman of a local group who are helping to maintain and preserve historic Collon Church.