Q: How are you?
A: I'm fine thanks.
Q: You've become sort of notorious for your carol service spreadsheet habit, haven't you?
A: It seems that way. I am constantly receiving inquiries about these documents, and the requests become much more frequent this time of year. Would you like some tea?
Q: Yes, please. Thank you!
A: Milk and sugar?
Q: Just a spot of milk. Thanks.
A: Here you are.
Q: How many carol service spreadsheets do you have?
A: We have two. One is for the famous Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols held every Christmas Eve in King's College, Cambridge, England. The other is for the Advent Carol Service held at the nearby St. John's College, Cambridge.
Q: Why are the carol spreadsheets hosted as Google documents rather than, say, a PDF?
A: Because there will (God willing) always be another service to add to our list in a year's time. This way, rather than passing out PDFs that are outdated in a year, all anyone ever needs is to bookmark a link to the service. We at Sinden.org update the sheets as soon as we have the new information.
Q: When will the carol service spreadsheets be updated this year?
A: The John's sheet was updated today. The King's sheet will be updated as soon as we can confirm the service details.
Q: What information can be found in these two spreadsheets?
A: The spreadsheets track the information about the carols, hymns, and other music sung in these services. Aside from the hymns, there is quite a bit of variety in these selections, and it's instructive to see how the "problem" of planning a carol service is handled from year to year. Both colleges are in the habit of commissioning new works for these services, and these pieces are highlighted in red.
Q: Do you keep track of the lessons too?
A: Yes, although these change much less frequently, if at all.
Q: What other sorts of activities are carried out on Sinden.org in connection to the King's service?
A: Well, there's our annual habit of fruitless conjecture about what will be sung (Predictions) and our annual Preview of the service once we have compared the service details to past services and carols.
Q: What should someone do if they have corrections or additions to the spreadsheets?
A: They should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If they have a full year's service that I don't have in the King's spreadsheet I will reward them with homemade cookies.
Q: Isn't this all kind of silly?
A: Not at all! There's a tremendous beauty in a set form that is carried out in very much the same way from year to year. This is particularly true in the case of King's service which has been going on for nearly 100 years now. Many people from all around the world find this kind of annual rhythm incredibly persuasive and tune in via the radio and internet every year to take part in this liturgy. Many parts of the service are exactly the same from year to year, but just as the personnel of the choir and the chapel change, so we, too, encounter this service anew after another year and its blessings and trials, comings and goings. We celebrate Christmas in new ways, and with new music, even as we connect with our past selves and relationships through memory and sound.
Q: Then why don't we do this at Easter too?
A: Not sure.
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