Listen

News 88.9 KNPR
Classical 89.7 KCNV
'Jazz'

member station

Classical
Deceptive Cadence

Commemorating A King's College Christmas Tradition

790257584_350441441.jpg

The Choir of King's College Cambridge conduct a rehearsal of their Christmas Eve service of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in King's College Chapel on Dec. 11, 2010 in Cambridge, England.
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

The Choir of King's College Cambridge conduct a rehearsal of their Christmas Eve service of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in King's College Chapel on Dec. 11, 2010 in Cambridge, England.

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." Listen in the audio player above.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Support comes from

You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for.  If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.