Easter 2024

07 December 2015
Nine Lessons and Carols - A Festival of, 2015 (preview)

As it is our care and delight to await the coming of the 2015 King's College Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, we must in heart and mind review the music list for this, the most famous regularly occurring church service in the entire world.

  1. After the First Lesson come two very familiar carols at this service.
    • This is the truth sent from above - Vaughan Williams last sung in 2012
    • Adam lay ybounden - Boris Ord, by the former director of music of King's, this is probably the most frequently sung carol after this lesson. It was last sung in 2011.
  2. After the Second Lesson
    • Ding dong! merrily on high - David Willcocks, the first of three carols by Willcocks
    • In dulci jubilo - Robert Lucas Pearsall, for a carol that is so closely associated with this service (at least in our minds) it is interesting to note that it hasn't been sung since 2010. Interestingly, these two carols were paired together after this lesson in 1999, though the order was reversed.
  3. After the Third Lesson
    • Sussex Carol - David Willcocks
    • Hymn: It came upon a midnight clear, this hymn was last sung in 2011 when it also followed Willcocks's "Sussex Carol" (though in that year there were three carols after the Third Lesson). The descant is that by Stephen Cleobury, which, with its opening parallel sixths, is one of our very favorites.
  4. After the Fourth Lesson
    • A tender shoot - Otto Goldschmidt, last sung in 2010
    • A spotless rose - Philip Ledger, last sung in 2012
  5. After the Fifth Lesson
    • The angel Gabriel - David Willcocks, it is believed that this marks the first performance of this carol at this service, at least in recent memory. More often the Edgar Pettman arrangement is sung, as it was in last year's service.
    • Nova, Nova - John Scott, a fitting tribute to a superb church musician who also died this year.
  6. After the Sixth Lesson
    • In the bleak midwinter - Harold Darke, sometimes voted the "best" Christmas carol of all time, this was sung last year.
    • Dormi Jesu - John Rutter, the second Rutter carol of the service. Note that Rutter celebrates his 70th birthday this year.
  7. After the Seventh Lesson
    • The Shepherd's Carol - Bob Chilcott, this carol has been sung every other year since 2011. It occupies an unusual place as a "modern classic" that was not composed by John Rutter. It was originally written not for this service, but for the service recorded television broadcast "Carols for Kings".
    • Hymn: God rest ye merry, gentlemen, this hymn is sung in the famous arrangement of David Willcocks
  8. After the Eighth Lesson
    • This year's commissioned carol The Flight - Richard Causton
    • Here is the little door - Herbert Howells, a splendid little carol that leans toward Epiphany. This will be the first time that this particular carol of Howells has been sung. Previously it was his "A spotless rose", which is sung frequently, including at last year's service. In fact, singing of this carol at this service goes back to at least 1936.
  9. After the Ninth Lesson the service concludes as it always does, with both hymns sung in their familiar David Willcocks arrangements.
    • Hymn: O come, all ye faithful
    • Hymn: Hark! the herald angels sing

The second organ voluntary is "Sortie on 'In dulci jubilo' " by David Briggs, a former organ scholar at King's. This organ piece was last performed in 2007.

The spreadsheet of carols at this service has been updated with this year's information.

This article was updated at 9 o'clock Central Time with descant information after an overwhelming response from our readers.

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