Last night I attended one of the most beautiful service--both visually and audily--I have ever been to. I had been told by friends that Evensong, or, as the name implies, a service of song in the evening, at Magdalen and New College were worth attending. But they did not do any justice to the intimacy and beauty of the service.
I have been to many services in my life, mostly LDS, but for many other denominations as well. As much as I love my church, and especially General Conference, I do not believe I have been to a more beautiful service.
The chapel was smaller than I anticipated for a college so old (especially after getting used to King's Chapel in Cambridge over the summer). But it made it all the more intimate. No overhead lights shown, and the sun was quite down by the time the service started at 6:00 p.m.; just the candles and small reading lights were lit, giving the whole room a cheery glow, and most intimate feel. The pews, which faced each other, were very high and ascended quite steeply, such that you could barely see other participants in the rows across or behind and above, contributing to the prayer-like intimacy of the service. The gothic walls and vaulted ceiling were barely audible in the candlelight, somehow focusing attention on the service and on the spirituality of the moment.
But it was the music that enraptured me most. New College and Magdalen College both have "proper" boy's schools attached to them, translating into well-behaved little boy soprano singers in full church robes. The music was so close - the choir was not five feet from me. I could hear the tall conductor's robes swishing and almost feel the air move around him as he waved his arms about. Everything was in perfect pitch (I am ruined for most church music, thanks to years of piano and violin lessons from my parents), and glorious.
I think I'll be back again.