Friday, December 21, 2007

Nine Lessons and Carols, and Christmas Music

One of the many reasons Cambridge's King's College Chapel is famous is for its Christmas Eve service, Nine Lessons and Carols. It was written in 1918 and has been performed at King's since then and broadcast on BBC Radio since 1928. The main choir is made up of 30 young schoolchildren who study at the prestigious King's College School here in Cambridge. The service begins with the hymn "Once in Royal David's City," sung a capella by a single voice. Three young boys are chosen as candidates to sing it, and then, at the last minute, the choir director points to one of the boys to begin singing. Here's this year's program (pdf).

How does one get tickets for this? You don't. You stand outside in line, or queue, as they say. Since we're here this year, we thought we'd try to go. The website says that if we're in line by 9 am we'll get in. The service is at 3 pm, so we should be good and frozen by then!

If you'd like to listen on Christmas eve, here's a selection of stations that say they'll be broadcasting it live on Monday, Dec. 24:

We've taken in some other music as well. Earlier this month we went to a performance of the Wren Choir and Orchestra at Pembroke College's Chapel. The college is one of the older ones -- founded in 1347. The chapel itself (right) was designed in 1665 by Christopher Wren, slightly more famous for designing St. Paul's Cathedral.

The music was Reinhard Keiser's Dialogus von der Gerburt Christi, sung in German. The choir did a beautiful job -- although I'm not sure the oratorio will ever be a hit. We enjoyed the evening out, though, and had the traditional Madeira and mince pies afterwards, followed by a stroll around campus. Its a pretty one, full of nooks and crannies and courtyard after courtyard.

Then, last night we went to a charity carol concert at Great St. Mary's church, which is the official church of Cambridge University. Great St. Mary's has been in the city center since the 1200s, albeit in a different form, as a meeting place for the university. The carol concert was lovely! The main choir was from two of the local hospitals, and a choir of schoolkids joined them for a few songs as well. It ended with a rousing rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

Our favorites, though, came from a 5-piece brass band. They did a gorgeous version of O Holy Night, and then Vivaldi's Winter. They wrapped up with a piece called "The Saints' Hallelujah." The director explained that it was an arrangement done by a Canadian group that had the chance to play for HM The Queen. Her favorite piece was the Hallelujah Chorus, and theirs was When The Saints Go Marching In. So, the band came up with an arrangement to accommodate both:

Prime Brass at Christmas Carol Concert from dceditors on Vimeo.


Chris Lawrence said...

Thank you for your kind words about Prime Brass -- I was the tuba player and introduced the pieces. Do keep an eye on our website, since we are a Cambridge-based ensemble, and in particular note the free concert in King's College Chapel on Saturday 23 February at 6.30pm (till c.7.20 pm) when we perform with the organ scholars of King's College under the baton of the Director of Music at King's, Stephen Cleobury. There will be no fewer than 7 trumpets, 4 horns, 3 trombones and tuba (plus organ of course). The next concert after that to look out for is on 1 March in the Emmanuel United Reformed Church in Trumpington Street.

Best wishes,

Chris Lawrence
Prime Brass

KTinDC said...

Hey cool! I'll put the King's concert on our calendar. You guys really were great. And I've never seen a mute for a tuba! Happy new year,
The DC Editors.