Editor's note: YourClassical MPR will broadcast A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 9 a.m. central Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, hosted by Michael Barone, with a rebroadcast later that day at 7 p.m. central. After that, it will be available here as on-demand audio for 30 days. A booklet for this year's service will be added here about a week before the broadcast.
Since 1918, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has offered listeners an opportunity to share in a live, worldwide Christmas Eve broadcast of a service of biblical readings, carols and related seasonal classical music. This special event is presented by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, one of the world’s foremost choirs of men and boys, and performed in an acoustically and architecturally renowned venue, the college’s 500-year-old chapel.
This year's national broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is made possible by generous support from the Hognander Family Foundation.
Here is the program for this year’s A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service. It includes the premiere of the newly commissioned carol “The Cradle,” composed by Cheryl Frances-Hoad from a setting of an English translation by Robert Graves of an anonymous 17th-century Austrian text — part of a King’s College carol commissioning program that goes back 40 years.
Note: A booklet for this year's service will be added here about a week before the broadcast.
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Hymn: “Once in Royal David's City” (Irby, descant Ledger)
Bidding Prayer (read by the dean)
Carol: “Out of Your Sleep” (Robin Nelson)
First lesson: Genesis 3:8-19 (read by a chorister)
Carol: “Adam Lay Ybounden” (Matthew Martin)
Second lesson: Genesis 22:15-19 (read by a college student)
Carol: “Illuminare Jerusalem” (Judith Weir)
Third lesson: Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (read by a member of college staff)
Carol: “O Radiant Dawn” (James MacMillan)
Hymn: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” (Forest Green, descant Armstrong)
Fourth lesson: Isaiah 11:1-9 (read by the master over the choristers)
Carol: “King Jesus Hath a Garden” (trad. Dutch arr. Wood, Cleobury)
Carol: “A Spotless Rose” (Philip Ledger)
Fifth lesson: Luke 1:26-38 (read by a fellow)
Carol: “Gabriel’s Message” (trad. Basque, arr. Willcocks)
Carol: “Hereford Carol” (arr. Robinson)
Sixth lesson: Luke 2:1-7 (read by the mayor of Cambridge)
Carol: “Sir Christemas” (Mathias)
Hymn: “The First Nowell” (arr. Willcocks)
Seventh lesson: Luke 2:8-20 (read by the director of music)
Carol: “The Cradle” (Cheryl Frances-Hoad) - 2023 commission
Eighth lesson: Matthew 2:1-12 (read by the vice-provost)
Carol: “All the Stars Looked Down” (John Rutter)
Carol: “Benedicamus Domino” (Warlock)
Ninth lesson: John 1:1-14 (read by the provost)
Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (arr. Willcocks, Daniel Hyde)
Collect and Blessing
Hymn: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” (Mendelssohn, arr. Willcocks)
In Dulci Jubilo (Bach)
Dieu Parmi Nous (Messiaen)
Daniel Hyde, director of music
Paul Greally, organ scholar
Rev. Stephen Cherry, dean
Rev. Mary Kells, chaplain
We're celebrating our annual Christmas Eve broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by giving away the King's College Choir's deluxe edition that celebrates the event’s 100th anniversary, The Centenary Service. This live recording of the 2018 service, presented on a surround-sound SACD that’s also compatible with standard CD players in stereo, features the last appearance of longtime director Stephen Cleobury, who died in 2019. It is presented in a stunning hardback book with over 50 pages of notes, commentary and photography documenting the festival’s legacy.
Enter below by 11:59 p.m. central Dec. 12, 2023, for your chance to win a copy. Several lucky listeners will be chosen at random soon after and get their choice of the physical SACD/CD or digital downloads of the album.
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