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Nine Lessons and Carols

Nine Lessons and Carols

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The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a format for a service of Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 worship
Worship
Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something, for example, Christian worship.Evelyn Underhill defines worship thus: "The absolute...

 celebrating the birth of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 that is traditionally followed at Christmas
Christmas
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...

. The story of the fall of humanity
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

, the promise of the Messiah
Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...

, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 readings from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carol
Christmas carol
A Christmas carol is a carol whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.-History:...

s, hymn
Hymn
A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification...

s and choir music.

The format was based on an Order drawn up by Edward White Benson
Edward White Benson
Edward White Benson was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 until his death.-Life:Edward White Benson was born in Highgate, Birmingham, the son of a Birmingham chemical manufacturer. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated BA in 1852...

, later Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 but at that time Bishop of Truro
Bishop of Truro
The Bishop of Truro is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Truro in the Province of Canterbury.The present diocese covers the county of Cornwall and it is one of the most recently created dioceses of the Church of England...

, in Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

, for use on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 (24 December) 1880. Tradition says that he organized a 10 pm service on Christmas Eve in a temporary wooden shed serving as his cathedral
Truro Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Truro is an Anglican cathedral located in the city of Truro, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. It was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style fashionable during much of the nineteenth century, and is one of only three cathedrals in the United Kingdom...

  and that a key purpose of the service was to keep men out of pubs on Christmas Eve.

The original liturgy has since been adapted and used by other churches all over the world. Lessons and Carols most often occur in Anglican
Anglicanism
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 churches, but also in some Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 parish
Parish
A parish is a territorial unit historically under the pastoral care and clerical jurisdiction of one parish priest, who might be assisted in his pastoral duties by a curate or curates - also priests but not the parish priest - from a more or less central parish church with its associated organization...

es, and Presbyterian institutions. However numerous Christian churches have adopted this service, or a variation on this service, as part of their Christmas celebrations. In the UK, the service has become the standard format for schools' Christmas carol services.

The best-known version is broadcast annually from King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

, on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

. It features carols sung by the famous Choir of King's College, Cambridge
Choir of King's College, Cambridge
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge is one of today's most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. It was created by King Henry VI, who founded King's College, Cambridge in 1441, to provide daily singing in his Chapel, which remains the main task of the...

. Groton School
Groton School
Groton School is a private, Episcopal, college preparatory boarding school located in Groton, Massachusetts, U.S. It enrolls approximately 375 boys and girls, from the eighth through twelfth grades...

 of Groton, Massachusetts
Groton, Massachusetts
Groton is a town located in northwestern Middlesex County, Massachusetts. The population was 10,646 at the 2010 census. It is home to two noted prep schools: Groton School, founded in 1884, and Lawrence Academy at Groton, founded in 1793. The historic town hosts the National Shepley Hill Horse...

, has performed the festival longer than any institution other than King's, holding its first Lessons and Carols in 1928.

Service at King's College, Cambridge


The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

, was held on Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve refers to the evening or entire day preceding Christmas Day, a widely celebrated festival commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that takes place on December 25...

 in 1918. It was conceived by Eric Milner-White
Eric Milner-White
Eric Milner-White CBE DSO OGS was a Dean of York in the Church of England; holding this post between 1941 and his death in 1963.-Early life and education:...

, the Dean
Dean (religion)
A dean, in a church context, is a cleric holding certain positions of authority within a religious hierarchy. The title is used mainly in the Anglican Communion and the Roman Catholic Church.-Anglican Communion:...

 of the College, whose experience as an army chaplain had led him to believe that more imaginative worship was needed by the Church of England
Church of England
The Church of England is the officially established Christian church in England and the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The church considers itself within the tradition of Western Christianity and dates its formal establishment principally to the mission to England by St...

. The order of service was adapted from the order created by Benson for Truro Cathedral 38 years earlier, based on an idea from the future Bishop of Edinburgh
Bishop of Edinburgh
The Bishop of Edinburgh is the Ordinary of the Scottish Episcopal Diocese of Edinburgh.The see was founded in 1633 by King Charles I. William Forbes was consecrated in St. Giles' Cathedral as its first bishop on 23 January 1634 though he died later that year...

, George Henry Somerset Walpole.

The music at the first service at King's was directed by Arthur Henry Mann
Arthur Henry Mann
Arthur Henry Mann was an English organist and composer of hymn tunes including "Angel's Story" which was originally written for the hymn 'I love to hear the story', but is also sung to the words 'O Jesus, I have promised.'-Education:Mann graduated from New College, Oxford...

, who was the organist
Organist
An organist is a musician who plays any type of organ. An organist may play solo organ works, play with an ensemble or orchestra, or accompany one or more singers or instrumental soloists...

 from 1876 to 1929. The choir had 16 trebles
Boy soprano
A boy soprano is a young male singer with an unchanged voice in the soprano range. Although a treble, or choirboy, may also be considered to be a boy soprano, the more colloquial term boy soprano is generally only used for boys who sing, perform, or record as soloists, and who may not necessarily...

 as specified in statutes laid down by Henry VI
Henry VI of England
Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars...

, and until 1927 the men's voices were provided by choral scholar
Choral scholar
A choral scholar is a student either at a university or private school who receives a scholarship in exchange for singing in the school or university's choir...

s and lay clerk
Lay clerk
A lay clerk, also known as a lay vicar, song man or a vicar choral, is a professional adult singer in a Cathedral or collegiate choir in the United Kingdom. The Vicars Choral were substitutes for the Canons...

s. Today, 14 undergraduates from the Choir of King's College, Cambridge
Choir of King's College, Cambridge
The Choir of King's College, Cambridge is one of today's most accomplished and renowned representatives of the great British choral tradition. It was created by King Henry VI, who founded King's College, Cambridge in 1441, to provide daily singing in his Chapel, which remains the main task of the...

, sing the men's parts.

The service was first broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1928 and, except for 1930, has been broadcast every year since, even throughout World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 despite the stained glass
Stained glass
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works produced from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches and other significant buildings...

 having been removed from the Chapel and the lack of heating. For security reasons, the name "King's" was not mentioned during wartime broadcasts. During the 1930s the BBC began broadcasting the service on its overseas programmes, and it is estimated that each year there are millions of listeners worldwide who listen to it live on the BBC World Service
BBC World Service
The BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting in 27 languages to many parts of the world via analogue and digital shortwave, internet streaming and podcasting, satellite, FM and MW relays...

. Domestically, the service is broadcast live on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

, and a recorded broadcast is made on Christmas Day on BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3
BBC Radio 3 is a national radio station operated by the BBC within the United Kingdom. Its output centres on classical music and opera, but jazz, world music, drama, culture and the arts also feature. The station is the world’s most significant commissioner of new music, and its New Generation...

. In the USA since 1979, the broadcast has been heard live on public radio stations affiliated with American Public Media, and most stations broadcast a repeat on Christmas Day. From 1963, the service was periodically filmed for television broadcast in the UK. Presently each year, a programme entitled Carols from King's which is pre-recorded in early or mid-December is shown on Christmas Eve in the UK on BBC Two
BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

 and BBC Four
BBC Four
BBC Four is a British television network operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation and available to digital television viewers on Freeview, IPTV, satellite and cable....

. The programme is weighted more heavily in favour of carols sung by the choir, with only seven readings in total, not all of which are from the Bible.

Order of service


The format of the first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols did not differ substantially from the one known today. The order of the lessons was revised in 1919, and since that time the service has always begun with the hymn "Once in Royal David's City
Once In Royal David's City
Once In Royal David's City is a Christmas carol originally written as poem by Cecil Frances Alexander. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys' hymnbook Hymns for little Children. A year later, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music...

". These days the first verse is sung unaccompanied by a solo boy chorister. To avoid putting him under undue stress, the chorister is not told that he will be singing the solo until immediately before the service is to begin.

The Nine Lessons, which are the same every year, are read by representatives of the college and of the City of Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 from the 1611 Authorized King James Version of the Bible in the following order: a chorister, a choral scholar, a representative of Cambridge churches, a representative of the City of Cambridge, a representative of King's College's sister college at Eton
Eton College
Eton College, often referred to simply as Eton, is a British independent school for boys aged 13 to 18. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor"....

, the Chaplain, the Director of Music, a fellow of the College, and the Provost
Provost (education)
A provost is the senior academic administrator at many institutions of higher education in the United States, Canada and Australia, the equivalent of a pro-vice-chancellor at some institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland....

 of the College. The singing is divided into "carols" which are sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, and "hymns" sung by the Choir and congregation. Since 1982 the current Director of Music, Stephen Cleobury
Stephen Cleobury
Stephen Cleobury CBE is an English organist and conductor. He was organ scholar at St John's College, Cambridge and sub-organist of Westminster Abbey before becoming Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in 1979...

, has commissioned a new carol each year on behalf of the College for the Choir. The carols vary from year to year, although some music is repeated. The service ends with the hymn "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. This is not the version widely known today. A sombre man, Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the...

". The following is from the service in 2008.
  • Organ Preludes
  • Processional Hymn
    Processional hymn
    A processional hymn is a chant, hymn or other music sung during the Procession, usually at the start of a Christian service although occasionally during the service itself. The procession usually contains members of the clergy and the choir walking behind the processional cross...

    : "Once in Royal David's City
    Once In Royal David's City
    Once In Royal David's City is a Christmas carol originally written as poem by Cecil Frances Alexander. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys' hymnbook Hymns for little Children. A year later, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music...

    " – words by Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander
    Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander
    Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander , was a hymn-writer and poet.She was born in Dublin, the daughter of Major John Humphreys and Elizabeth . She began writing verse in her childhood...

    ; melody by H.J. Gauntlett, harmonized by H.J. Gauntlett and A.H. Mann; descant
    Descant
    Descant or discant can refer to several different things in music, depending on the period in question; etymologically, the word means a voice above or removed from others....

     by Stephen Cleobury
    Stephen Cleobury
    Stephen Cleobury CBE is an English organist and conductor. He was organ scholar at St John's College, Cambridge and sub-organist of Westminster Abbey before becoming Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in 1979...

    .
  • Bidding Prayer
    Bidding-prayer
    A Bidding-prayer is the formula of prayer or exhortation to prayer said during worship in churches of the Anglican Communion. It occurs during the liturgy of the word, prior to the sermon. Such formulae are found in the ancient Greek liturgies, e.g. that of St...

  • Carol: "If Ye would Hear the Angels Sing" – words by D. Greenwell; music by P. Tranchell
  • First Lesson from Genesis 3: 8–15; 17–19
  • Carol: "Remember, O Thou Man" – words, 16th century; music by Thomas Ravenscroft
    Thomas Ravenscroft
    Thomas Ravenscroft was an English musician, theorist and editor, notable as a composer of rounds and catches, and especially for compiling collections of British folk music.He probably sang in the choir of St...

  • Carol: "Adam lay ybounden
    Adam Lay Ybounden
    "Adam lay ybounden", originally titled Adam lay i-bowndyn is a 15th century macaronic English text of unknown authorship. The manuscript on which the poem is found, , is held by the British Library, who date the work to c.1400 and speculate that the lyrics may have belonged to a wandering minstrel;...

    " – words, 15th century; music by Boris Ord
    Boris Ord
    Boris Ord , born Bernhard Ord, was an English organist, composer and musical director best known as the choir master of King's College, Cambridge....

  • Second Lesson from Genesis 22: 15–18
  • Carol: "Angels from the Realms of Glory
    Angels from the Realms of Glory
    "Angels from the Realms of Glory" is a Christmas carol written by English poet James Montgomery. It was first printed in the Sheffield Iris on Christmas Eve 1816, though it only began to be sung in churches after its 1825 reprinting in the Montgomery collection The Christian Psalmist and in the...

    " – words by James Montgomery
    James Montgomery
    James Montgomery was a British editor, hymnwriter and poet. He was particularly associated with humanitarian causes such as the campaigns to abolish slavery and to end the exploitation of child chimney sweeps....

    ; music, old French tune arranged by Philip S. Ledger
    Philip Ledger
    Sir Philip Ledger CBE is a British classical musician and academic. He is best-known for his tenure as director of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge between 1973 and 1982 and as director of Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama from 1982 until his retirement in 2001...

  • Carol: "In Dulci Jubilo
    In Dulci Jubilo
    In dulci jubilo is a traditional Christmas carol. In its original setting, the carol is a macaronic text of German and Latin dating from the Middle Ages. Subsequent translations into English, such as J.M...

    " – words, 14th century German; music by Hieronymus Praetorius
    Hieronymus Praetorius
    Hieronymus Praetorius was a north German composer and organist of the late Renaissance and very early Baroque eras. He was not related to the much more famous Michael Praetorius, though the Praetorius family had many distinguished musicians throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.-Life:He was born...

  • Third Lesson from Isaiah
    Isaiah
    Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

     9: 2; 6–7
  • Carol: "Nowell Sing We Now All and Some" – words and music medieval, edited by John Stevens
  • Hymn: "Unto Us is Born a Son
    Unto Us is Born a Son
    Puer nobis nascitur, usually translated as Unto Us is Born a Son, is a medieval Christmas carol found in a number of manuscript sources - the 14th century German Moosburg Gradual and a 15th century Trier manuscript...

    " – words, 15th century Latin, translated by G.R. Woodward; music from Piae Cantiones
    Piae Cantiones
    Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum is a collection of late medieval Latin songs first published in 1582. It was compiled by Jacobus Finno or Jaakko Suomalainen , a clergyman who was headmaster of the cathedral school at Turku...

    arranged by David V. Willcocks
  • Fourth Lesson from Isaiah 11: 1–3a; 4a; 6–9
  • Carol: "The Lamb
    The Lamb
    "The Lamb" is a poem by William Blake, published in Songs of Innocence in 1789. Like many of Blake's works, the poem is about Christianity.-Background:...

    " – words by William Blake
    William Blake
    William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

    ; music by John Tavener
    John Tavener
    Sir John Tavener is a British composer, best known for such religious, minimal works as "The Whale", and "Funeral Ikos"...

  • Carol: "A Spotless Rose is Blowing
    Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
    "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen" , most commonly translated to English as "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" or "A Spotless Rose", is a Christmas carol and Marian Hymn of German origin.-History:...

    " – words, 15th century German, translated by C. Winkworth; music by Philip S. Ledger
  • Fifth Lesson from the Gospel of Luke
    Gospel of Luke
    The Gospel According to Luke , commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.The...

     1: 26–35; 38
  • Carol: "I Sing of a Maiden" – words, 15th century; music by Lennox Berkeley
    Lennox Berkeley
    Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley was an English composer.- Biography :He was born in Oxford, England, and educated at the Dragon School, Gresham's School and Merton College, Oxford...

  • Carol: "The Night when She First Gave Birth" ("Mary") – words by Bertolt Brecht
    Bertolt Brecht
    Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

    , translated by Michael Hamburger
    Michael Hamburger
    Michael Hamburger OBE was a noted British translator, poet, critic, memoirist, and academic. He was known in particular for his translations of Friedrich Hölderlin, Paul Celan, Gottfried Benn and W. G. Sebald from German, and his work in literary criticism...

    ; music by Dominic Muldowney
    Dominic Muldowney
    Dominic Muldowney is a British composer.-Biography:He studied at the universities of Southampton and York , and took private lessons with Harrison Birtwistle. From 1974 to 1976 he was composer-in-residence to the Southern Arts Association...

  • Sixth Lesson from Luke 2: 1; 3–7
  • Carol: "Sweet Baby, Sleep! What Ails My Dear?" ("Wither's Rocking Hymn)" – words by George Wither
    George Wither
    George Wither was an English poet, pamphleteer, and satirist. He was a prolific writer who adopted a deliberate plainness of style; he was several times imprisoned. C. V...

    ; music by Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...

  • Carol: "What Sweeter Music can We Bring" – words by Robert Herrick
    Robert Herrick (poet)
    Robert Herrick was a 17th-century English poet.-Early life:Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Julia Stone and Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith....

    ; music by John Rutter
    John Rutter
    John Milford Rutter CBE is a British composer, conductor, editor, arranger and record producer, mainly of choral music.-Biography:Born in London, Rutter was educated at Highgate School, where a fellow pupil was John Tavener. He read music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the...

  • Seventh Lesson from Luke 2: 8–16
  • Carol: "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
    Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
    "Infant holy, Infant lowly" is based on a traditional Polish Christmas carol, "W żłobie leży". This song was translated to English by Edith M.G.Reed...

    " – words, Polish traditional, translated by Edith M.G. Reed; music arranged by Stephen Cleobury
  • Hymn: "God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" – English traditional; arranged by David V. Willcocks
  • Eighth Lesson from the Gospel of Matthew
    Gospel of Matthew
    The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the four canonical gospels, one of the three synoptic gospels, and the first book of the New Testament. It tells of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth...

     2: 1–12
  • Carol: "Illuminare Jerusalem" – words adapted from the Bannatyne manuscript in John and Winifred MacQueen, A Choice of Scottish Verse, 1470–1570 (1972); music by Judith Weir
    Judith Weir
    Judith Weir CBE, is a British composer.-Biography:Her music has been appreciated by audiences and critics alike. She trained with John Tavener while still at school and subsequently with Robin Holloway at King's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1976...

  • Carol: "Glory, Alleluia to the Christ Child" – words, 17th century; music by A. Bullard
  • Ninth Lesson from the Gospel of John
    Gospel of John
    The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

     1: 1–14
  • Hymn: "O Come, All Ye Faithful
    Adeste Fideles
    "Adeste Fideles" is a hymn tune attributed to English hymnist John Francis Wade . The text itself has unclear beginnings, and may have been written in the 13th century by John of Reading, though it has been concluded that Wade was probably the author.The original four verses of the hymn were...

    " ("Adeste Fideles") – words, 18th century Latin, translated by Frederick Oakeley
    Frederick Oakeley
    Frederick Oakeley was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England the sixth son of Sir Charles Oakeley, second baronet, and educated at Christ Church, Oxford. He was ordained in 1828 and in 1845 converted from Church of England to Catholicism, whereupon he became Canon of Westminster in 1852....

    ; melody by John Francis Wade
    John Francis Wade
    John Francis Wade was an English hymnist who is credited with writing and composing the hymn "Adeste Fideles" ....

    , arranged by Stephen Cleobury
  • Collect
    Collect
    In Christian liturgy, a collect is both a liturgical action and a short, general prayer. In the Middle Ages, the prayer was referred to in Latin as collectio, but in the more ancient sources, as oratio. In English, and in this usage, "collect" is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable...

     and Blessing
  • Hymn: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
    Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
    “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a Christmas carol that first appeared in 1739 in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems, having been written by Charles Wesley. This is not the version widely known today. A sombre man, Wesley had requested and received slow and solemn music for his lyrics, not the...

    " – words by Charles Wesley
    Charles Wesley
    Charles Wesley was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley...

     and George Whitefield
    George Whitefield
    George Whitefield , also known as George Whitfield, was an English Anglican priest who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain, and especially in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally...

    ; music by Felix Mendelssohn
    Felix Mendelssohn
    Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

    ; descant by Stephen Cleobury
  • Organ Voluntaries: "In Dulci Jubilo
    In Dulci Jubilo
    In dulci jubilo is a traditional Christmas carol. In its original setting, the carol is a macaronic text of German and Latin dating from the Middle Ages. Subsequent translations into English, such as J.M...

    " (BWV 729) by Johann Sebastian Bach
    Johann Sebastian Bach
    Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

    , "Dieu Parmi Nous
    La Nativité du Seigneur
    La Nativité du Seigneur is a work for organ, written by the French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1935....

    " by Olivier Messiaen
    Olivier Messiaen
    Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex ; harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations...

  • Organ Postlude

Commissioned carols and organ postludes

Year Titles Authors
1983 In Wintertime
(When Thou wast born in wintertime)
Words: Betty Askwith
Music: Lennox Berkeley
Lennox Berkeley
Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley was an English composer.- Biography :He was born in Oxford, England, and educated at the Dragon School, Gresham's School and Merton College, Oxford...

1984 One Star, at Last
(Fix on one star)
Words: George Mackay Brown
George Mackay Brown
George Mackay Brown , was a Scottish poet, author and dramatist, whose work has a distinctly Orcadian character...


Music: Peter Maxwell Davies
Peter Maxwell Davies
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, CBE is an English composer and conductor and is currently Master of the Queen's Music.-Biography:...

1985 Illuminare Jerusalem Words: adapted from the Bannatyne manuscript in .
Music: Judith Weir
Judith Weir
Judith Weir CBE, is a British composer.-Biography:Her music has been appreciated by audiences and critics alike. She trained with John Tavener while still at school and subsequently with Robin Holloway at King's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1976...

1986 Nowel, Nowel, Holly Dark Words: Walter de la Mare
Walter de la Mare
Walter John de la Mare , OM CH was an English poet, short story writer and novelist, probably best remembered for his works for children and the poem "The Listeners"....


Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Richard Rodney Bennett
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, CBE is an English composer renowned for his film scores and his jazz performance as much as for his challenging concert works...

1987 What Sweeter Music Can We Bring Words: Robert Herrick
Robert Herrick (poet)
Robert Herrick was a 17th-century English poet.-Early life:Born in Cheapside, London, he was the seventh child and fourth son of Julia Stone and Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith....


Music: John Rutter
John Rutter
John Milford Rutter CBE is a British composer, conductor, editor, arranger and record producer, mainly of choral music.-Biography:Born in London, Rutter was educated at Highgate School, where a fellow pupil was John Tavener. He read music at Clare College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the...

1988 The Birthday of thy King
(Awake, glad heart, get up, and sing!)
Words: After Henry Vaughan
Henry Vaughan
Henry Vaughan was a Welsh physician and metaphysical poet.Vaughan and his twin brother the hermetic philosopher and alchemist Thomas Vaughan, were the sons of Thomas Vaughan and his wife Denise of 'Trenewydd', Newton, in Brecknockshire, Wales...


Music: Peter Sculthorpe
Peter Sculthorpe
Peter Joshua Sculthorpe AO OBE is an Australian composer. Much of his music has resulted from an interest in the music of Australia's neighbours as well as from the impulse to bring together aspects of native Australian music with that of the heritage of the West...

1989 Carol of St. Steven Words: Adapted from W. Sandys' Christmas Carols
Music: Alexander Goehr
Alexander Goehr
Alexander Goehr is an English composer and academic.Goehr was born in Berlin in 1932, the son of the conductor and Schoenberg pupil Walter Goehr. In his early twenties he emerged as a central figure in the Manchester School of post-war British composers. In 1955–56 he joined Oliver Messiaen's...

1990 Богородице Дево, радуйся
(Rejoice, O Virgin Mary)
Words: the Orthodox Liturgy
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 (in Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

)
Music: Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt
Arvo Pärt is an Estonian classical composer and one of the most prominent living composers of sacred music. Since the late 1970s, Pärt has worked in a minimalist style that employs his self-made compositional technique, tintinnabuli. His music also finds its inspiration and influence from...

1991 A Gathering Words: Lancelot Andrewes
Lancelot Andrewes
Lancelot Andrewes was an English bishop and scholar, who held high positions in the Church of England during the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. During the latter's reign, Andrewes served successively as Bishop of Chichester, Ely and Winchester and oversaw the translation of the...


Music: John Casken
John Casken
John Casken is an English composer, born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England.Casken read music at the University of Birmingham, studying composition and contemporary music with John Joubert and Peter Dickinson. He then went on to study in Poland with Andrzej Dobrowolski on a Polish government...

1992 Swetë Jesu Words: Anonymous, 13th Century
Music: Nicholas Maw
Nicholas Maw
John Nicholas Maw was a British composer.-Biography:Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, Maw was the son of Clarence Frederick Maw and Hilda Ellen Chambers. He attended the Wennington School, a boarding school, in Wetherby in the West Riding of Yorkshire. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was 14...

1993 Christo Paremus Cantica Words: Anonymous, 15th Century
Music: Diana Burrell
Diana Burrell
Diana Burrell is an English composer.-Life and career:She was born in Norwich and attended Norwich High School for Girls before studying music at Cambridge University. She began her career as a viola player, but soon became well known for her compositions and became a full-time composer.Her first...

1994 The Angels
(Should you hear them singing among stars)
Words: John V. Taylor
Music: Jonathan Harvey
Jonathan Harvey (composer)
Jonathan Harvey is a British composer. He has held teaching positions at universities and music conservatories in Europe and the USA and is frequently invited to teach in summer schools around the world.-Life:...

1995 Seinte Marie Moder Milde Words: From a 13th-century manuscript in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...


Music: James MacMillan
1996 Pilgrim Jesus
(Iesus! Christus! In the manger of my body)
Words: Kevin Crossley-Holland
Kevin Crossley-Holland
Kevin John William Crossley-Holland is an English translator, children's author and poet.-Life and career:Born in Mursley, north Buckinghamshire, Holland grew up in Whiteleaf, a small village in the Chilterns...


Music: Stephen Paulus
Stephen Paulus
Stephen Paulus is an American composer, best known for his operas and choral music. His best-known piece is his 1982 opera The Postman Always Rings Twice, one of several operas he has written for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, which prompted The New York Times to call him "a young man on the road...

1997 The Fayrfax Carol Words: Early Tudor
Tudor period
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...

, anonymous
Music: Thomas Adès
Thomas Adès
Thomas Adès is a British composer, pianist and conductor.-Biography:Adès studied piano with Paul Berkowitz and later composition with Robert Saxton at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London...

1998 Winter Solstice Carol English words and music: Giles Swayne
Giles Swayne
Giles Oliver Cairnes Swayne is a British composer.- Biography :Swayne is a cousin of Elizabeth Maconchy. He spent much of his childhood in Liverpool, and began composing at a young age...


Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 words: Magnificat
Magnificat
The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

 antiphon
Antiphon
An antiphon in Christian music and ritual, is a "responsory" by a choir or congregation, usually in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or other text in a religious service or musical work....

 for Christmas Day
1999 On Christmas Day to My Heart Words: Clement Paman
Music: Richard Rodney Bennett
Richard Rodney Bennett
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, CBE is an English composer renowned for his film scores and his jazz performance as much as for his challenging concert works...

2000 The Three Kings Words: The Three Kings (1916) by Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy L. Sayers
Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator and Christian humanist. She was also a student of classical and modern languages...


Music: Jonathan Dove
Jonathan Dove
Jonathan Dove is a British composer of opera, choral works, plays, films, and orchestral and chamber music. He has arranged a number of operas for English Touring Opera and the City of Birmingham Touring Opera , including in 1990 a famous 18-player two-evening adaptation of Wagner's Der Ring des...

2001 Spring in Winter Words: C. Smart, from Hymn &c: The Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
Music: John Woolrich
John Woolrich
John Woolrich is a British composer. He was BBC Radio 3 'Composer of the Week' in March 2008, involving the broadcast of over 4 hours of his music in one week.-External links:**...

2002 The Angel Gabriel Descended to a Virgin Words: 15th–17th century
Music: Robin Holloway
Robin Holloway
Robin Greville Holloway is an English composer.-Early life:From 1952 to 1957, he was a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral...

2003 The Gleam
(Not yet shepherds the gilded kings)
Words: Stephen Plaice
Stephen Plaice
Stephen Plaice is a UK based dramatist and scriptwriter who has written extensively for theatre, opera and television.-Early Career:...


Music: Harrison Birtwistle
Harrison Birtwistle
Sir Harrison Paul Birtwistle CH is a British contemporary composer.-Life:Birtwistle was born in Accrington, a mill town in Lancashire some 20 miles north of Manchester. His interest in music was encouraged by his mother, who bought him a clarinet when he was seven, and arranged for him to have...

2004 God would be born in thee
(Lo, in the Silent Night a Child in God is Born)
Words: Angelus Silesius
Angelus Silesius
Angelus Silesius was a German Catholic mystic and poet.-Life:Silesius was born in Breslau , Silesia as son of Polish noble and German mother...


Music: Judith Bingham
Judith Bingham
Judith Bingham is a British composer and mezzo-soprano singer.Born in Nottingham in 1952 and educated at High Storrs Grammar School for Girls in Sheffield, she attended the Royal Academy of Music , where her teachers were Malcolm MacDonald, Eric Fenby, Alan Bush and John Hall , and Jean...

2005 Carol: Away in a Manger
Away in a Manger
"Away in a Manger" is a Christmas carol first published in 1885 in Philadelphia and used widely throughout the English-speaking world. In Britain it is one of the most popular carols, a 1996 Gallup Poll ranking it joint second.-History of the lyrics:...

Words: 19th century
Music: John Tavener
John Tavener
Sir John Tavener is a British composer, best known for such religious, minimal works as "The Whale", and "Funeral Ikos"...

Organ postlude: Improvisation on "Adeste Fideles
Adeste Fideles
"Adeste Fideles" is a hymn tune attributed to English hymnist John Francis Wade . The text itself has unclear beginnings, and may have been written in the 13th century by John of Reading, though it has been concluded that Wade was probably the author.The original four verses of the hymn were...

"
Francis Pott
Francis Pott
Francis Pott, born 25 August 1957, is a British composer, pianist, senior academic and university administrator.-Life:He held open music scholarships at Winchester College and Magdalene College, Cambridge, studying composition at the latter with Robin Holloway and Hugh Wood while also pursuing...

2006 Carol: Misere' Nobis
(Jesu of a Maiden Thou wast Born)
Words: a version of a medieval English carol
Music: Mark-Anthony Turnage
Mark-Anthony Turnage
Mark-Anthony Turnage is a prolific English composer of classical music. His initial musical studies were with Oliver Knussen, John Lambert, and later with Gunther Schuller...

Organ postlude: Recessional on "In the Bleak Midwinter
In the Bleak Midwinter
"In the Bleak Midwinter" is a Christmas carol based on a poem by the English poet Christina Rossetti written before 1872 in response to a request from the magazine Scribner's Monthly for a Christmas poem....

"
Lionel Steuart Fothringham
2007 Carol: Noël (Now comes the dawn)
(Stardust and vaporous light)
Words: Richard Watson Gilder
Richard Watson Gilder
Richard Watson Gilder was an American poet and editor.-Life and career:Gilder was born at Bordentown, New Jersey. He was the son of Jane Gilder and the Rev. William Henry Gilder, and educated at his father's seminary in Flushing, Queens. There he learned to set type and published the St. Thomas...


Music: Brett Dean
Brett Dean
Brett Dean is a contemporary Australian composer, violist and conductor.-Career:Dean studied at the Queensland Conservatorium where he received a Medal of Excellence. From 1985 to 1999, Dean was a violist in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2000, he decided to pursue a career as a freelance...

Organ postlude: Sortie on "In Dulci Jubilo
In Dulci Jubilo
In dulci jubilo is a traditional Christmas carol. In its original setting, the carol is a macaronic text of German and Latin dating from the Middle Ages. Subsequent translations into English, such as J.M...

"
David Briggs
David Briggs (musician)
David John Briggs is an English organist and composer. He started his career as a cathedral organist as Assistant Organist in Hereford Cathedral before becoming the organist of Truro and Gloucester Cathedrals. Heavily influenced by Jean Langlais and Pierre Cochereau, Briggs is regarded as one of...

2008 Mary

(The Night when She First Gave Birth)
Words: Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht
Bertolt Brecht was a German poet, playwright, and theatre director.An influential theatre practitioner of the 20th century, Brecht made equally significant contributions to dramaturgy and theatrical production, the latter particularly through the seismic impact of the tours undertaken by the...

, translated by Michael Hamburger
Michael Hamburger
Michael Hamburger OBE was a noted British translator, poet, critic, memoirist, and academic. He was known in particular for his translations of Friedrich Hölderlin, Paul Celan, Gottfried Benn and W. G. Sebald from German, and his work in literary criticism...


Music: Dominic Muldowney
Dominic Muldowney
Dominic Muldowney is a British composer.-Biography:He studied at the universities of Southampton and York , and took private lessons with Harrison Birtwistle. From 1974 to 1976 he was composer-in-residence to the Southern Arts Association...

2009 The Christ Child Music: Gabriel Jackson
2010 Offerings they brought of gold Music: Einojuhani Rautavaara
Einojuhani Rautavaara
Einojuhani Rautavaara is a Finnish composer of contemporary classical music, and is one of the most notable Finnish composers after Jean Sibelius.-Life:...


Attendance of the service in person


The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols held on Christmas Eve at King's College Chapel is primarily intended for the City of Cambridge and members of the general public. There are about 650 seats in the Chapel for the service, most of which are in the Ante-Chapel
Ante-chapel
Ante-chapel is the term given to that portion of a chapel which lies on the western side of the choir screen.In some of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge the ante-chapel is carried north and south across the west end of the chapel, constituting a western transept or narthex...

; seats in the Choir are largely reserved for College members and their guests.

The demand for seats always exceeds the number available. Members of the public are admitted to the College through the main gate on King's Parade from 7:30 am (though some start queueing the night before), and each person is given an information leaflet which must be retained and shown to the duty porter
Porter (college)
The majority of colleges at the universities of Cambridge, Durham and Oxford, as well as newer collegiate universities such as York and older universities like University of Bristol and St David's College, have members of staff called porters. There is normally a head porter and a team of other...

 for re-entry if he or she desires to leave the queue temporarily. People joining the queue before 9:00 am will usually gain admission to the Chapel, but this is not guaranteed. Porters monitor the number of people joining the queue, and once there are as many people as there are seats available, the others are advised that it is unlikely they will be able to attend the service. Members of Collegium Regale (the Choral Scholars of King's College Choir) usually sing Christmas carols to entertain the people who are queueing.

A limited number of seats are available for people unable to queue due to disability or illness. Application for such seats must be made by 31 October to the personal assistant of the Dean of King's College.

The doors of the Chapel are opened at 1:30 pm and the public allowed to find their seats. As the service is broadcast live, at the request of the BBC it begins a little after 3:00 pm and not exactly on the hour. It concludes at around 4:30 pm or 4:45 pm at the earliest.

Service at Groton School


It is thought that Twining Lynes, the first organist and choirmaster of Groton School
Groton School
Groton School is a private, Episcopal, college preparatory boarding school located in Groton, Massachusetts, U.S. It enrolls approximately 375 boys and girls, from the eighth through twelfth grades...

 in Groton, Massachusetts
Groton, Massachusetts
Groton is a town located in northwestern Middlesex County, Massachusetts. The population was 10,646 at the 2010 census. It is home to two noted prep schools: Groton School, founded in 1884, and Lawrence Academy at Groton, founded in 1793. The historic town hosts the National Shepley Hill Horse...

, USA, heard one of the earlier services and instituted it at Groton ten years later, in 1928. It has been presented yearly at Groton since that time, meaning that it has taken place for 82 years. All five of the organists at Groton have been involved with the service – Twining Lynes until 1941, Edward Gammons until 1973, Daniel Hathaway from 1974 through 1976, Craig Smith from 1976 through June 2005, and Michael Smith since July 2005.

Groton gives three annual performances of the festival. The first performance is open to residents of the town of Groton and generally closed to students of Groton School. The second service is a performance for alumni and friends of the school. The final performance generally falls on the evening before the School's Christmas break, and is attended by all students and many faculty.

The readings are the same from year to year and service to service. The readers, with two exceptions, change with each performance. The final reading is always delivered by the Headmaster of Groton School, currently Richard Commons. For the second and third services, the penultimate reading is presently delivered by former Headmaster Bill Polk. The remaining readings are given by selected students (who may be choristers), current and former faculty, and alumni.

See also


  • Anglican church music
    Anglican church music
    Anglican church music is music that is written for liturgical performance in Anglican church services.Almost all of it is written for choir with or without organ accompaniment...

  • List of carols performed at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College Chapel, Cambridge

External links