A Festival Of Nine Lessons And Carols: Commemorating A King’s College Choral Tradition
BY LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO & NED WHARTON
Every Christmas Eve at exactly 3 p.m., the Chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England plays A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. The tradition began in 1918, and for decades it’s been broadcast on the BBC and around the world. A commemorative recording of last year’s Centenary Service has just been released; it was the last one conducted by Sir Stephen Cleobury, the choir’s music director for 37 years, who died just last month on Nov. 22.
The tradition of a special Christmas service began at King’s College during Rev. Eric Milner-White’s first year as dean in 1918. Milner-White had served as an army chaplain in World War I, and thought that the people of England sorely needed a morale boost. Today, the Nine Lessons plays a similar role. “I think the service provides a wonderful sense of tradition in an increasingly secularized society,” says the choir’s new music director, Daniel Hyde.
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro spoke to Daniel Hyde about a few of the service’s traditions, such as its annual radio broadcast, commissioning an original hymn and how they choose the boy soloist for “Once in Royal David’s City.”
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