As its name implies, Evensong is an Anglican evening service that is mostly sung.
In this area, the only place one can experience the beauty of Evensong is at St. John's Church in downtown Savannah. The next Evensong will be celebrated Dec. 7 and is open to everyone who wants to attend.
"It's one of the ancient and classical traditions of Anglicanism," says the Rev. Gavin Dunbar, rector of St. John's Church. "This is probably the one church in this area that does it on a regular basis.
"It's a service of praise and prayer that is almost entirely sung by the choir on behalf of the congregation," Dunbar says. "It incorporates centuries of wonderful musical compositions, the best of the best composers for the last 500 years."
The service is quite popular.
"We had 187 people at the last Evensong," Dunbar says. "That's fairly unusual for an evening service in this day and age.
"Our choir has new leadership and has been revitalized and rejuvenated," he says. "This is something for music lovers and people who love reverent services."
Evensong takes place at 5:30 p.m. on certain Sundays throughout the year.
"We'll have a sort of Christmas Evensong on Jan. 4, then we've got a Candlemas Evensong on Feb. 1, which is a service with lighted candles," Dunbar says. "We've got another one on March 1, so they're sort of distributed throughout the season. Each is a meditation on that season."
Evensong has elements the Sunday worship service doesn't.
"It has the beauty of music," Dunbar says. "Both music and sound is what carries the worship."
The Evensong at St. John's is essentially the same service as the Evensongs celebrated at St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London. St. John's is one of the most historic churches in Savannah.
It was founded in 1841. The present church building was designed in the Gothic revival style by Calvin Otis, an architect from Buffalo, N.Y., and dedicated on May 7, 1853.
St. John's parish house is located in the historic Green-Meldrim House, famous as Sherman's residence while he was in Savannah. The house also plays a part in Evensong.
"We usually have a reception at the Green-Meldrim House, which is next door to the church," Dunbar says. "It gives the singers a chance to relax and the congregation to meet with them."
Evensong services are more common in England.
"All the big cathedrals in England have choral foundations where Evensong is rendered every day," Dunbar says. "We don't have those resources, but we're doing the same repertoire."
The choirs of St. John's have produced three CDs. Over the past 10 years, members have served as a choir-in-residence at the Truro, Lichfield and Wells cathedrals in the United Kingdom.
"They did week-long residences to sing Evensong every day in these magnificent settings where the standards are extremely high," Dunbar says. "The best choirs in the world are there."
The entire community is invited to experience Evensong.
"Any person is most welcome to come," Dunbar says. "If you want to experience it for the sheer beauty of it and the spiritually of it, it's a perfect opportunity to do so without being signed up for something."
St. John's organist and choirmaster Steven Branyon knows about the work required to do an Evensong service.
"It's very beautiful, but it requires lots of rehearsal," Branyon says. "When the choir finishes one, we start to work on the other."
Those who attend might want to arrive early.
"We have an extended prelude that begins at 5:05 p.m.," Branyon says. "It is quiet music on the organ to get people prepared for the worship itself. The service itself is only about 45 minutes long."
The choir has 30 members, including some children.
"We're trying to get all of that back up and are thinking about a separate boys and girls choir in the coming years," Branyon says. "We're not quite ready for that yet."
The music alone makes the service worth attending, Branyon says.
"If people like beautiful sacred music, that's the one thing that would be a drawing card for me as a musician," he says. "The space and the worship itself is another card.
"The actions of the liturgy - the music gives action and meaning to that. It is unlike a concert where you just hear some songs.
"Once you get hooked on it, it's hard to give it up," Branyon says. "I was raised in a Baptist church where we had none of this. When I discovered it, it left such a mark on me that I kept coming back to it."