Monday, December 24, 2018

Choir of King’s College, Cambridge: Christmas Carols

Winter Festival

Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, England, with Stephen Cleobury as music director, perform the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. As is tradition on Christmas Eve, a lone boy is selected by the choirmaster to sing the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City.”
Via: Youtube

It is that time of year again, to commemorate and celebrate a musical winter tradition that is this year marking its centenary. In an article (“Every Christmas Eve, a Lone Choir Boy Sings to More Than 370 Million;” December 23, 2018), in The New York Times, Michael White writes:
A serene liturgical parade of music, words and wonder that expounds the Christmas story, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the high point of the year for King’s, a University of Cambridge college with a celebrated choir that sings in its chapel almost every day while classes are in session.
And this year will be special: Partly because it’s the 100th Lessons and Carols, but also because it’s the last time Mr. Cleobury — who has held one of the most coveted jobs in church music for longer than most people can remember — will be in charge.
Something about the Lessons and Carols’ serene liturgy of music, words and wonder touches a nerve. It seems embedded in the DNA of Christmas, a tradition from the ancient past. Except it isn’t.  
It was started in 1918 by a young Anglican priest who had returned to Cambridge after serving in the trenches of World War I. He called it a “festival,” but it was also a commemoration for the war dead, with a so-called Bidding Prayer for “those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light.”
It established a precedent, and churches and cathedrals copied the new liturgy for themselves — to the point that the format of Nine Lessons and Carols became a standard at Anglican churches around the world.
And a beautiful one, too, that all peoples of the world can enjoy. 

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