Evensong at the Berlin Cathedral
The Berliner Dom is a rather unique piece of architecture in Berlin. Its impressive curved dome soars above the former Royal quarter of Berlin.
Commissioned by the final Kaiser and completed in 1905 it just makes it into the 20th Century, but of course was built to appear much older. A grand, imposing building which dwarfs the surroundings on Museum Island it never fails to elicit an awed response from my guests. Badly damaed after suffering a direct hit during the bombing raids of WWII it wasn’t properly restored until the 1970’s. Some people do choose to enter the church, paying the small fee to see the ‘museum’ of the church where you can climb to the balcony and go underneath to the royal crypts, but many of my guests feel they’ve seen enough churches on their travels through Europe and with limited time choose to focus on the various other marvels offered by Berlin’s treasure trove of possibilities. However, there is a relatively new treat to be had for those in the know which you may like to consider if you’re in Berlin over a weekend. There is a wonderful choral Evensong service at the Dome on Saturdays once a month which only started just before Christmas.
Evensong at the Dome
For those of you unfamiliar with it, an Evensong service is essentially a service which is primarily sung, apart from a couple of short readings by the priest. The rest – usually some call and response preces and collects, a psalm or two, a Magnificat, a Nunc Dimitis and an anthem, along with a hymn or two, are sung in many churches by a choir (it is roughly the equivalent of the catholic Vespers, but is based on the common prayer book and has it’s origins in private worship, often being led by laypersons, as I’m told…). It takes approximately 45 mins and when not sung A Capella is accompanied by the glorious hand carved Sauer organ under the capable fingers of Andreas Sieling. In the Berliner Dom the voices for the Evensong service are provided by the English speaking choir of Berlin, which specialises in early church music from the protestant reformation and early Anglican tradition. The pieces are often by such remarkable english composers of the time such as William Byrd. Thomas Morley and Thomas Walmisley and are stunning examples of early English church music. Sitting in the pews on a cold winter’s eve, listening to the choir as the voices soar, rage, whisper and retreat I really can begin to imagine what it must have been like for the early Christians, sitting in these extraordinary churches, listening to what seems to be the voices of angels.
Music soars above religious conflict
You don’t have to be religious at all to appreciate the music in the beautiful setting of the Berliner Dom. Certainly I don’t identify as religious at all. But for any of you wanting to hear some amazing music performed in a remarkable setting, then this is a wonderful opportunity to duck in at 6pm for a brief cultural injection before moving on for dinner and whatever else the evening holds in store for you in Berlin. And you will have the chance to experience the glorious architecture of the Dome whilst listening to stunning music performed by a highly capable choir. Do make sure you check the website for dates however, as it’s only once a month at this point.
And if you look carefully at the choristers in their blue and white robes, you may just spy me peeking out from above my music folder…