This series will typically (hopefully) be posted on Mondays, but we’ve already experienced 7 college Evensongs so I’ll catch you up with those first. Also, my home college is Worcester College, so I’ve been to many a service in Tess’s chapel. I’m still figuring out how to relay the experience in a similar way to how I’ll describe the colleges I’ve visited.
Will and I do extensive research before we embark on an Evensong adventure. Just the important stuff like: Where is the door? Are we actually allowed to go? Do we have to wear suits or will that just make us look pretentious? So far we have not been kicked out, embarrassed ourselves, or gotten too lost. The general method of success is to ask the porters. They really are the glue that holds Oxford together, and typically know where the chapel actually is which is handy. Particularly in the case of Christ Church where the quad is pretty symmetrical and it is very easy to get lost (particularly in the dark).
Christ Church is – I’m fairly sure objectively – beautiful. The reputation it holds is off-putting, but walking into Christ Church college feels like walking into Oxford University in a way that walking into Worcester College doesn’t. The scenery is iconic. I felt familiar with it (and probably genuinely recognised it) due to my years of being caught up in the ‘Oxbridge’ dream. Some of it was used for filming the Harry Potter films too. I cannot pretend that I didn’t find that immensely cool. I’m sure that, for these reasons, Christ Church is swarming with tourists in the daytime. Luckily, of the three times I’ve been to the college, it has been nighttime every time. Maybe one day I’ll get the version which is lit by sunlight rather than moonlight. Perhaps you’ll then get a comparison (but probably not… sorry).
I wore the classic white t-shirt/flimsy black blazer combo for this 6pm Evensong, although others ranged from Commoners gown and formal wear, to jeans and a t-shirt. This is because some people were (I presume) going to formal dinner in hall after the service, and some were tourists. Will and I probably fit somewhere between these categories. We aren’t tourists of Evensongs really, since we could always come back again and again if we wanted. We are, however, doing a tour. We also hit Christ Church – one of the big boys of Oxford with a literal Cathedral – first. Feel free to formulate your own opinion of what exactly we are, I’m essentially trying to say that we didn’t look out of place!
– Apart from when we took a couple of selfies by the classic Harry Potter stairs –
– But I have no regrets –
The Cathedral itself was fantastic. The porters (or Churchy-men (sorry if the assumption that everyone’s a porter is offensive in any way)) were wonderful in helping us find a seat. Apparently the acoustics are better at the far end – which is, coincidentally, where most students sat – but closer to the choir is better in terms of the view. We opted for the far end of the benches closest to the choir. It meant we had a vaguely creepy gargoyle man staring at us, but the acoustics were fine and we could see everything that was happening. I can’t imagine the acoustics being genuinely bad anywhere in the Cathedral, though. Cathedrals probably don’t have to be a certain size to qualify, but this one was erring on the smaller side. If anything, this made Christ Church really quite special. The grandiose and the homely – two things which one would think complete parallels of each other – come together beautifully.
Naturally, the music is a key part of any Evensong. In my diary I’ve written that “the hymns were excellent”, but I don’t know what they are, and am not dedicated enough to find out. The choir, however, I can strongly recall. The choir was all male (unfortunate, but we were in Christ Church so some irritating patriarchal remnants shouldn’t have been a surprise). I did not, however, hate them. Boys’ choirs and young male choristers are generally a point of contention for me. They can definitely smell fear – over their own sweaty adolescent smell – and will, when it comes down to it, latch onto one person and try to assert their dominance. Admittedly, my own personal experiences with this kind of child have probably marred my perception of boys’ choirs. Christ Church, however, worked as a step on the way to recovery. They all seemed astonishingly normal and not as though they were going to go home and repeatedly kill people on Minecraft… people who are only there for a good time. So yes, the song of Christ Church Evensong was one which I vividly remember and would go back to experience.
I should definitely write about the sermon now, but unfortunately I don’t remember it and didn’t write anything down about it. Since that information is lost to time, I’d like you all to assume that it was good. I think it was. It was probably inspiring too.
Christ Church Evensong probably even worked in Godly ways. Now, I’m not too up to speed on my Jesus knowledge, but I’m fairly sure red wine is meant to emulate his blood. As fate would have it – and I’m not saying it was a sign, but, it was a sign – my team came 2nd in the Worcester pub quiz that night. The prize… a bottle of red wine. I don’t drink, but thanks Christ Church.
Rating De Evensong… a divine 8/10 stars