Compline & the Seattle Rite (1956–today)

Audio version read by Michael Perera. (Transcript below)

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Station 6: Compline

Location: Northeast Pillar ("Compline Corner")

The magnificent Flentrop organ is a physical reminder of Peter Hallock’s time at Saint Mark’s, but the Compline Choir may well turn out to be his most well-known and lasting legacy.

While a student at the Royal School of Church Music in Canterbury in the late 1940s, Hallock was introduced to chanted Compline in the crypt of the cathedral. Early in his tenure at Saint Mark’s, he invited twelve music students from the University of Washington to study and sing plainchant. By 1956 this study group had become The Compline Choir, and the Sunday night office was opened to the public. Starting in 1962, the service began to be broadcast live on Classical KING FM—by some accounts, the longest-running radio broadcast in Seattle.

For many years, only a small congregation would gather to listen, but beginning in the late 1960s, Compline was discovered by a new audience of young spiritual seekers, who began to bring cushions, blankets, and pillows to the cathedral to experience the meditative liturgy while seated on the floor or lying on the altar platform, a practice which continues to this day.

Today, under the direction of Dr. Jason Anderson, the tradition of Compline continues at Saint Mark’s—every Sunday evening at 9:30 pm. The members of the Compline Choir are not monks. Some are Christians of various denominations; some come from other faiths; some are non-believers. All members of the choir are volunteers and freely give of their time and talents. In Peter Hallock’s own words:

“Compline is experiencing space, not just the magnificent space implicit to our well-loved Holy Box, but also the negative space of darkness and night. There is space as a result of the choir located in the rear of the church rather than in front. There is space to the ear as a result of the grand acoustic. Metaphorically speaking there is a kind of space one associates with things of a timeless nature—in this case, a timelessness suggested by the historic nature of the monastic office and in the singing of plainsong and other forms of early music.”

Like the many-faceted space of the Compline service, the space of Saint Mark’s Cathedral has much to offer and we invite you to keep exploring. Whether you are a parishioner at Saint Mark’s, an Episcopalian attending an event at your cathedral, or simply a visitor; whether you are here often or just once; and wherever you are on your faith journey: you are welcome in this space.

Additional Resources:

The Compline page of the cathedral website, which includes a livestream video archive.

The website of the Compline Choir.

"The 'It' of Compline" (pdf), an essay written in 1984 by Peter Hallock

Prayer Before Night Falls, a book published in 2013 by Ken Peterson, the longest-serving member of the Compline Choir.

Thank you for taking the self-guided cathedral tour! 

Return to the main tour page.

< Back to Station 5