Main content

Carols of the Times

Composer Bob Chilcott explores the history of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

From the age of eight, Bob Chilcott sang with the world renowned King's College Choir in Cambridge. Every Christmas Eve the choir gather in the chapel to sing for a service that is known and loved across the globe. At 3pm a boy chorister steps forward to sing the opening verse of "Once in Royal David City" and so begins the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

To mark the centenary of this Christmas tradition, composer Bob Chilcott returns to King's College Chapel to explore the history of the service, to meet the people involved and to reflect on why this sequence of carols and readings has had such a major impact. He'll discover how the tradition bloomed from the smoke and ashes of World War I, how it spread throughout the world in broadcasts and publications and how it has developed through new pieces of music written for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols by great contemporary composers. The likes of Judith Weir, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Arvo Pärt and John Rutter have all contributed to this series of new carols, bringing this 100 year old Christmas tradition into the modern day.

(Photo: Kings College choir. Credit: Kings College Cambridge)

Available now

53 minutes

Last on

Thu 27 Dec 2018 00:06GMT


  • Sun 23 Dec 2018 03:06GMT
  • Sun 23 Dec 2018 14:06GMT
  • Boxing Day 2018 09:06GMT
  • Thu 27 Dec 2018 00:06GMT