Our Candlelight Carol Service will be held on Sunday, December 18 at 5 p.m. Advent lessons are interspersed with beautiful seasonal and sacred music. Sung by candlelight, this service is one of our most popular worship opportunities of the year. Join our choristers and our adult choir in the telling of the Christmas story with the singing of anthems and favorite carols. A festive reception will follow in the Parish Hall.
Our Annual Candlelight Carol Service follows an age-old tradition that began in 1880 when E. W. Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘arranged from ancient sources a little service for Christmas Eve–nine carols and nine tiny lessons, which were read by various officers of the Church, beginning with a chorister, and ending with the Bishop.’ This service was held in Truro, England.
The service began with the hymn “Once in Royal David’s City” (Words by Cecil Frances Alexander; Music by Henry John Gauntlett), a practice that continues to the present day. The 1918 service was not altogether successful, and the Order of Service was revised the following year. This consisted of a rearrangement of lessons, an adjustment of the music, and the creation of the now-famous Christmas Bidding Prayer. Since then, the lessons and the prayers have remained virtually unchanged. In almost every year, some carols have been changed and some new ones introduced by successive Kings’ Organists: Arthur Henry Mann, Boris Ord, Harold Darke, Sir David Willcocks, Philip Ledger, and, Stephen Cleobury.
The service became even more popular in 1928 when it was first broadcast. In 1954, a special taping of the entire service was prepared for television; since 1963 edited tapings have been periodically televised. Today, millions of people around the world hear or see the Festival which is broadcast by the BBC radio, television, and short-wave on Christmas Eve.
The repertoire that the Saint Paul’s adult choir and choristers will sing this year is as follows:
- “Sussex Carol” arranged by Phillip Ledger
- “Adam Lay Ybounden” by Boris Ord
- Gaudete – Piae Cantiones
- “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” by John Gardner
- “Ave Maria” by Robert Parsons
- “Balulalow” by Francis Pott
- “A Babe is Born” by William Mathias
- “The Blessed Son of God” by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Don’t miss this spectacular combination of prayer, readings, anthems, and carols with brass and timpani on Sunday afternoon, December 18 in the candlelit sanctuary beginning at 5 p.m. A reception will follow the service.
For more historical information about the Festival of Lessons and Carols, go to
http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/events/chapel-services/nine-lessons.html where much of this historical information was found.