Singing the Services

CHAPTER HOUSE SINGERS Essential information for singing at services in St Mary’s Cathedral

Dress – smart “black and white” turnout.  Women: white blouse, black skirt (or trousers) and black jacket or cardigan.  Men: dark lounge suit, white shirt and sober tie.  The Cathedral is cold, and not just in winter. Warm layers of clothing is advised.

Music – will have been provided at the relevant rehearsal. Bring it with you as spare copies may not be available on the day.  Note that if St Mary’s Cathedral Choir music is being used this must not be marked in any way or removed from the building.  Please listen for and follow any instructions regarding return of borrowed music after the services.

Hymns – unless otherwise stated, first and last verses are sung in unison, others in harmony.  St Mary’s uses the New English Hymnal (NEH) and copies of the Full Music Edition can usually be found in the choir stalls, but bring your own if you have one. Please ensure that the Cathedral Choir’s hymn books are not marked in any way – these and any other music kept in the stalls must be replaced where found.

Order of Service – the morning Eucharist service follows the Scottish Liturgy 1982 (as set out in the tall narrow glossy service booklet specific to St. Mary’s): Evensong is found in the Scottish Prayer Book (1929) p 21 et seq. or on A4 laminated cards.  Copies of these along with the white service sheet (which gives details of the day’s music and weekly notices) should be available in the choir stalls.  Note that at the morning Eucharist hymns and anthems etc are not announced, although they generally are at Evensong.  The choir-specific notes here will be useful – participatory music is marked in bold italics.

Etiquette – as well as being religious services, these events are performances and they can also be an opportunity for us to showcase our abilities to help advertise a forthcoming concert.  So a certain amount of presentation and decorum is called for, and particular points to note are:

  • Rehearsal in the choir stalls. Please be organised with your music ready to start promptly.  The usual seating is sopranos (front row) and tenors (back row) sit on the organ side (“Cantoris”); altos and basses opposite (“Decani”).
  • After the practice, please do not leave coats, bags or water-bottles in the choir stalls – during the services they can be locked in the Vestry (morning Eucharist) or Chapter House (Evensong).
  • Water-bottles are not to be used during the services, but discreet sucking of pastilles or lozenges is quite acceptable.
  • Forming up for procession: please form up silently in pairs in 2 lines in the North Aisle.   The Crucifer (cross-bearer) leads, followed by women then men, in order of seating  arrangement – front row first.   If one line is longer than the other, those at the rear should even up the pairings by joining the shorter line, moving across to the correct side on reaching the top of the Choir stalls.  If there is still an odd number, the proper solution is for one person to walk between the lines in front of the last pair.
  • Processing in: don’t carry anything other than music (if used for final practice in the Chapter House) – no bags or water bottles, please.   If music is carried, hold this in the right hand at about waist level.
  • Walk naturally in line behind the person in front, at approximately arm’s length from that person and the one beside you.  When cornering (eg at the foot of the North Aisle), the “inside” person slows down and the “outside” person lengthens their stride to maintain the pairing.  Don’t swing out on the corners or make right-angle turns.
  • Stands and Sits will be given by the conductor, so watch carefully to ensure      consistent timing.  It may be only a small point, but the whole choir standing/sitting simultaneously creates a good impression.


Rehearsal: 9.30am in choir stalls ready for prompt start.

Service: at 10.25am form up for procession in the area of the North Aisle next to the choir stalls. Please observe silence.

  • Vestry Prayer:  The Lord be with you.  And with thy spirit.  Let us proceed in peace.  In the name of Christ, Amen.
  • After the Vestry prayer, follow the Crucifer and Acolytes on the long route down the North Aisle to the West Door and then up the Nave, dividing left and right round the Nave Altar, up to the top end of the choir stalls and then back down through the choir stalls towards the Nave.  Turn round (inwards) to face the High Altar, bow all together (take cue from Crucifer) and turn back ready for the First hymn (“Introit”).
  • Remain standing for First hymn, Opening prayers, Kyrie or Gloria, Prayer.
  • Sit for reading.
  • Stand for Second hymn (“Gradual”) and first part of Gospel Acclamations, then turn      to face towards Gospel reader in Nave.  After Gospel turn to face conductor for second of part of Gospel Acclamations and then sit for sermon.
  • Stand for Creed:  Merbecke setting, unison, NEH p833 (melody edition), p1228 (full music edition).
  • Sit/kneel for Intercessions.
  • Stand for Peace greeting and Offertory Hymn, prayers, Sanctus and Benedictus.
  • Sit/kneel for prayers.
  • After Lord’s Prayer stand for Agnus Dei, after which proceed to High Altar for Communion (or a blessing) if desired – file out from Nave end of choir stalls.  At the High Altar rail, altos and basses fan out to the right while sopranos and tenors      fan left from the centre of the rail.  After communing, return individually to stalls from High Altar end.  Stand when indicated for Anthem or Motet and sit thereafter if time.
  • Stand for Final hymn, after which turn inwards to face High Altar and all bow with Crucifer.  Don’t move until Crucifer sets off – process out in pairs (as before) following Crucifer – via High Altar this time.  On reaching the top of the North Aisle,      stop and remain in formation until after Dismissal Prayer – turn to face clergy for this.
  • Dismissal Prayer:  The Lord be with you.  And also with you.  Let us bless the Lord. Thanks be to God.  May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and rise in glory.  Amen.


Rehearsal: 2pm in choir stalls, ready for prompt start.

Service: at 3.25pm form up for procession at the East end of the North Aisle. Please observe silence.  NB the response to the Vestry and Dismissal prayers, is And with thy spirit instead of And also with you.  After Vestry prayer, follow the Crucifer on the short route down the North Aisle, turning left at the pillar after the pulpit and then up through the Choir to the High Altar end of stalls and then back down through the stalls towards the Nave.  Turn round inwards to face the High Altar, bow and turn back ready for the Introit.

  • Remain standing for Introit followed by Opening prayers, First Responses (“Preces”), Office Hymn and Psalm(s)
  • Sit for first reading.
  • Stand for Magnificat.
  • Sit for second reading.
  • Stand for Nunc Dimittis and then turn to face High Altar for Apostles’ Creed (said).
  • Face front for (Second) Responses, Amens following intoned prayers and Anthem or Motet.
  • Sit/kneel for prayers.
  • Stand for Offertory Hymn, closing prayer and Three-fold Amen.  Then turn inwards to face the High Altar and all bow with Crucifer and Priest before processing out in pairs (as before) following Crucifer – via High Altar this time.  On reaching Vestry in North Aisle, stop and remain in formation until after Dismissal.