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2013 Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College

The 2013 service from King’s College, Cambridge with traditional hymns, carols and readings. Plus new work by Thea Musgrave.

For many people around the world, the Festival - live from the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge - marks the beginning of Christmas. It is based around nine Bible readings which tell the story of the loving purposes of God. They are interspersed with carols old and new, sung by the world famous Chapel Choir who also lead the congregation in traditional Christmas hymns.

Photo: Getty Images

1 hour, 31 minutes

Programme for 2013:

Hymn: Once in Royal David's City (desc. Cleobury)
Bidding Prayer read by the Dean
Ding, Dong! merrily on high (arr. Williamson)
First lesson: Genesis 3, vv 8-19 read by a Chorister
Jesus Christ the apple tree (Poston)
Hear the voice of the Bard (Musgrave - first performance, commissioned by King's College)
Second lesson: Genesis 22 vv 15-18 read by a Choral Scholar
Love came down at Christmas (Morris, arr. Cleobury)
Joy to the world (Holford, arr. Keyte and Parrott)
Third lesson: Isaiah 9 vv 2, 6-7 read by a Member of the College Staff
Illuminare, Jerusalem (Weir)
Hymn: Unto us is born a Son (arr. Willcocks)
Fourth lesson: Isaiah 11 vv 1-3a, 4a, 6-9 read by a Representative of the City of Cambridge
The Lamb (Tavener)
A New Year Carol (Britten)
Fifth lesson: Luke 1 vv 26-35, 38 read by a representative of our sister College at Eton
Angelus ad Virginem (arr. Cleobury)
Hymn to the Virgin (Britten)
Sixth lesson: Luke 2 vv 1, 3-7 read by the Chaplain
Away in a manger (arr. Willcocks)
A Boy was born (Britten)
Seventh lesson: Luke 2 vv 8-16 read by the Director of Music
The Shepherd's Carol (Chilcott)
Hymn: While shepherds watched (desc. Cleobury)
Eighth lesson: Matthew 2 vv 1-12 read by the Vice-Provost
Susanni (Bennett)
I saw three ships (arr. Preston)
Ninth lesson: John 1 vv 1-14 read by the Provost
Hymn: O come, all ye faithful (arr. Willcocks)
Collect and Blessing
Hymn: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing (desc. Cleobury)

Organ voluntaries:
In dulci jubilo (BWV 729) (Bach)
Dieu parmi nous (Messiaen)

Director of Music: Stephen Cleobury
Organ Scholar: Douglas Tang


Live broadcast: Tuesday 24th December, 15:00 GMT


Tuesday 24th December 
21:30 GMT (West Africa)
Wednesday 25th December 
02:30 GMT (The Americas)
03:30 GMT (East Asia and Europe)
05:30 GMT (Australasia)
06:30 GMT (East Africa)

Please send any comments and questions to:

This Year’s New Carol

The 2013 commissioned carol is a setting of William Blake’s text ‘Hear the voice of the Bard’, set to music by Thea Musgrave. The composer said about the work:

‘I was drawn to this poem because it reaches out for the larger beauty and mystery of our existence on earth independent of specific religious affiliation. Whether it be the natural rhythm of the seasons or the daily renewal of light, or the beauty and breadth of stars and sky, Blake finds our 'lapsed' human souls in need of the refreshment and constancy of nature's magical cycles - and also of the artist's role in the musical voice of the Bard.’ 


Hear the voice of the Bard,
Who present, past, and future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walked among the ancient trees;

Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen light renew!

‘O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass!
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumbrous mass.

‘Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day.'

William Blake (1757 – 1827)