Evensong at St. Nicolaas

Today I attended Evensong at the St. Nicolaas church in Amsterdam. A stately, spacious Roman Catholic church directly opposite the busy trainstation of Amsterdam Central, and an oasis of quiet splendour. They boast no less than three choirs: the Cappella Nicolai, the St. Nicolas Chorale and the Schola Cantorum Amsterdam.

One of the sopranos in the Chorale is an acquintance of mine and she had made a Facebook event of this their last Evensong until October (!). So naturally I had to attend 😉 Actually one of my best friends sang in one of the other choirs a few years ago, so it was not all new, but having come to love English choral music so much in this last year it was a new and more rewarding experience today.

The Chorale has a very elegant sound and I loved to hear adult female voices for a change – I absolutely love boy choirs, but just as an adult female voice cannot produce the same sound quality as a boy, neither does it work the other way round. Also the men were very clear and strong but never overdoing it. Distinct but part of the whole. Their director Michael Hedley, I observed, conducts very, how shall I say – imaginative. Lots of mimic gestures, almost like he’s telling a story to a child, using his hands instead of words.


What I loved most music-wise were the Sarum plainchant of the Office Hymn, and the Psalm. There’s something about plainchant and the Anglican psalm singing that gets to me, more profoundly than all the other beautiful music. It’s so solemn and meditative, and to hear it in such a beautiful space, filled with the energy of so many prayers – it has to be experienced, here and in every church or cathedral or chapel or monastery 🙂

After the service was over, I had a chance to visit the choir room and their library. Almost felt like going backstage after a concert 😉 I saw that they had a mailbox system for all the choir members, divided neatly into Cantoris and Decani and each vocal group, numbered and with their own colour. I thought that was pretty neat (in both senses of the word ;)). Their library clearly showed the taste of the director:  for instance, three thick folders of Howells canticles, and a meagre half one for Bach!

I didn’t join the choir for drinks as I was feeling tired, but I will be following their adventures in Ely where some of them will be singing this summer and blogging and taking pictures; apparently they have wifi in the cathedral and they need to be there 7 hours a day to sing (and rehearse) – and drink lots of tea in between 😉

Choral Evensong for the Eve of the 4th Sunday after Trinity 16 July 2011       Introit: Never weather-beaten sail (Parry) (Wood)                                                           Responses (Nardone)                                                                                                               Office Hymn: O blest creator of the light (Sarum plainchant)                               Psalm 84                                                                                                                                Canticles:  Evening Canticles in E flat (Wise)                                                              Anthem: Hear O Lord (Amner)                                                                                                   Closing hymn:  The day is past and over


5 responses to “Evensong at St. Nicolaas

  1. I was there too and immensely enjoyed the service. The psalm was sung so well, and of course the acoustics in the church help a lot. Very beautiful canticles. I’ll sing with some to the choir members in Ely in August.

  2. Love the write up, thanks for the link! Trouwens, the introit was by Wood, not Parry 🙂

    • Ah, it said Wood on the website and Parry on the paper we got handed out. Ofcourse as a blogger I should’ve trusted the website 😉

  3. Pingback: Roden Boys Choir in Amsterdam | my life as a choir fan

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