Nine Lessons and Carols - A Festival of, 2016 (preview)
As it is our care and delight to await the coming of the 2016 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.
Where possible we have included links to recordings on YouTube sung by King's.
- The service will begin with the hymn "Once in royal David's city" as it always does. The descant on the final stanza is by the Director of Music, Stephen Cleobury. (recording)
- The invitatory carol is "A Babe is Born" by William Mathias. This carol was last sung as the invitatory carol in 2014. (recording)
- After the first lesson comes the music of two women. First, staple of this service, and then a piece by a composer whose music has never been sung at this service.
- Jesus Christ the apple tree by Elizabeth Poston. This carol was last sung in 2013, and it recurs fairly regularly. This will be its seventh appearance since 1999. (recording)
- "Adam lay ybounden" by Gaynor Howard. Howard joins the ranks of Ord, Warlock, Ledger, and one Christopher Brown, whose setting of this text was heard in 2012. (Read more at Howard, Gaynor - Adam lay ybounden.)
- After the second lesson two very familiar unaccompanied carols are heard
- Riu, riu chiu by Flecha. This lively Spanish carol was last heard in 2011 and also appears on many recordings from King's. (recording)
- "In dulci jubilo" by Praetorius. This lovely macaronic carol is heard almost annually, either in this early setting or in the "carol-fantasia" by Pearsall. In the past nineteen years it has been omitted only three times: 2002, 2011, and 2013.
- After the third lesson another composer has his moment in the King's spotlight.
- Sussex Carol by Brian Kelly. Again, the familiar names of Willcocks and Ledger are skipped in favor of a setting of this carol by a composer whose music has not previously been heard at this service. The name Brian Kelly will be familiar to many Anglican church musicians, though we cannot say that we know of this carol setting.
- Hymn: "O little town of Bethlehem". This hymn makes its first appearance since 2007. In the intervening years this hymn slot has been taken up with either "God rest ye merry, gentlemen", "It came upon the midnight clear", or "Unto us is born a Son". (recording)
- After the fourth lesson the familiar carols return. Here we have two crystalline contrapuntal carol structures that are consummate Christmas compositions.
- The Lamb by John Tavener. This carol was sung immediately after the fourth lesson at Stephen Cleobury's very first Lessons and Carols service at King's. This is all the more remarkable because though it was not specifically composed for that year's service it had only been written a few months before. (Tavener would later be commissioned to write "Away in a manger" in 2005.)
We particularly want to mention this connection to Cleobury's first service because this year marks his 35th year at King's. One cannot help but wonder if he might be starting to think about stepping down, and in what way this music list could reflect a farewell to a tradition he has done so much to sustain, cultivate, and enliven.
We do not have records of every year back to 1982, but we can find at least nine times that The Lamb has been sung at this service, the most recent being in 2013. (recording)
- "A spotless rose" by Herbert Howells. Here again, quite a familiar carol and one that has deep roots at this service. I've found records of it being sung as early as 1934, though it perhaps appeared even earlier than that. It was last sung in 2014. Last year a different Howells carol "Here is the little door" was sung for the first time. (recording)
- After the fifth lesson
- After the sixth lesson something old and something new.
- Quelle est cette odeur agréable? by Willcocks. The last record we have of this being sung was in 1991, though we do not currently have records of services from 1992-1996. (recording from the Choir of Guilford Cathedral under Barry Rose)
- Then follows the commissioned carol, This Endernight by Michael Berkeley Lennox Berkeley's son.
The anonymous c1400 text, This Endernight, is unusual for a carol in that it articulates the voice of the infant Jesus in dialogue with his mother. ‘Ender' or ‘Endris' means past or recent. Maternal feelings of tenderness are in abundance but there is also a knowingness about the importance of the event that is unfolding. It is an upbeat lullaby which looks forward to heavenly bliss and so culminates in a radiant cadence.
"Michael Berkeley composes Christmas commissioned carol". King's College. 3 November 2016.
- After the seventh lesson
- In the bleak midwinter by Harold Darke. This carol is perhaps the most familiar of any, and when it does not appear the same words are sometimes sung to a tune by Gustav Holst. This carol was sung last year after the sixth lesson. (recording)
- Hymn: "While shepherds watched their flocks by night". This hymn was last sung in 2013. (recording)
- After the eight lesson.
- Bethlehem Down by Peter Warlock. Various pieces by Warlock have appeared at these services ("Adam lay ybounden", "Balulalow", and "Benedicamus Domino") but Bethlehem Down only appears in our records four times. It was last sung in 1999. (recording)
- "Ding! dong! merrily on high" by Mack Wilberg. This carol has appeared five times since its introduction in 2007. It was last sung in 2014. (recording)
- The final two hymns of this service after the ninth lesson are as predictable as the very first.
- O come, all ye faithful in the familiar arrangement by Willcocks. (recording)
- Hark! the herald-angels sing is crowned with a descant by Philip Ledger. (recording)
The organ music concluding the service is In dulci jubilo, BWV 729
and "Dieu parmi nous" by Olivier Messiaen
Labels: Christmas, King's College (Cambridge)
The page you're reading is part of Sinden.org
©MMXVII Sinden.org: a site for fun and prophet
Organ and church music, esoteric liturgics, and a site that changes color with the liturgical year.
Looking for Carol Spreadsheets?
Hungry? Try the Liturgical Guide to Altoids Consumption
Thirsty? Try the Tibia Liquida
The Eric Harding Thiman Fan Page: The greatest composer you've never even heard of.
Infrequently Asked Questions
picture of a chicken
Questions? Problems? email the sexton.
The author of this website is an organist whom the New York Times
calls “repeatedly, insisting that he pay for his subscription”.
He likes to read parking meters, music, Indianapolis Monthly
, and weather forecasts in Celsius, particularly whilst wearing cassock and surplice.
He serves lasagna, overhand, as an example to many, and on ecclesiastical juries.
He takes photos, lots of dinner mints, and a little bit of time to get to know.
Alex Ross: The Rest is Noise
Book of Common Prayer
The Daily Office
The Lectionary Page
Ship of Fools
The Sub-Dean's Stall
Vested Interest - Trinity Church in the City of Boston
Andrew Kotylo - Concert Organist
Bonnie Whiting, percussion
conjectural navel gazing: jesus in lint form
Friday Night Organ Pump
Halbert Gober Organs, Inc.
in time of daffodils
Joby Bell, organist
Musings of a Synesthete
My Life as Style, Condition, Commodity.
Nathan Medley, Countertenor
Notes on Music & Liturgy
The Parker Quartet
Roof Crashers & Hem Grabbers
That Which We Have Heard & Known
This Side of Lost
Zachary Wadsworth | composer
Advent (Medfield MA)
All Saints, Ashmont (Boston MA)
All Saints (Indianapolis IN)
Atonement (Bronx NY)
Broadway UMC (Indianapolis IN)
Cathedral of All Saints (Albany NY)
Christ Church (Bronxville NY)
Christ Church (Madison IN)
Christ Church (New Haven CT)
Christ Church Cathedral (Indianapolis IN)
Christ's Church (Rye NY)
Church of St. Stephen (Hamden CT)
Congregational (Belmont CA)
Coventry Cathedral (UK)
First UMC (Lancaster SC)
Gloria Dei ELCA (Iowa City IA)
Immanuel Lutheran (St Paul MN)
Immanuel Lutheran (Webster NY)
John Knox PCUSA (Houston TX)
St Andrew (Marblehead MA)
St Andrew's, Oregon Hill (Richmond VA)
St Bartholomew the Great, (London, England)
St James's (Lake Delaware NY)
St James's (Richmond VA)
St James Cathedral (Chicago IL)
St Mary's Cathedral (Memphis TN)
St Matthew and St Timothy (NYC)
St Paul's (Cleveland Heights OH)
St Paul's (Indianapolis IN)
St Paul's Cathedral (Buffalo NY)
St Paul's, K Street (Washington DC)
St Peter's (Lakewood OH)
St Peter's ELCA (NYC)
St Stephen's (Richmond VA
St Thomas (New Haven CT)
St Thomas ELCA (Bloomington IN)
Second PCUSA (Indianapolis IN)
Towson Presbyterian Church (MD)
Tremont Temple Baptist (Boston MA)
Trinity (Indianapolis IN)
Trinity on the goldenrod (New Haven CT)
BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong
New College (Oxford, England)
St John's College (Cambridge, England)
St Thomas (New York NY)
Like the site? Buy the shirt
Areyou . . .
Yes, but they're not the kind you buy on Wheel of Fortune.
the owner of a bower at Bucklesfordberry?
Full daintily it is dight.
interested in touch lamps?
And fountain pens.
this site used to be better: