​100 years of Nine Lessons & Carols : 2018
King's College  Cambridge

   "An amazingly valuable and
    fascinating resource"
   Marcus Huxley

Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols in King's College Chapel
​first sung on 24 December 1918
​Director of Music:  Arthur 'Daddy' Mann  (1876-1929)

As this photograph was taken in 1916 most of these King's choristers would have
taken part in the first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
View the original 1918 Order of Service

Click any photo to enlarge

Click any photo to enlarge

Arthur Mann's first radio broadcast: 1928

No recordings of this service survive but we can hear the choir a year later, in 1929, when they produced their first ever gramophone record, directed by Arthur Mann.

Listen to the 1929 gramophone record

This 1927 photograph with Arthur Mann in the middle (4th from left)

Harold Darke's Wartime broadcasts
Director of Music: 1940-1945

During the war years, whilst Boris Ord was serving with the RAF, the choir was directed by Harold Darke and only two recordings of the choir are under his tenure are known to have survived.

The first recording is this newsreel 'Christmas under Fire' from 1940 where the choir sings on the soundtrack and makes a screen appearance at 07.38.
Many people think the Festival of Nine Lessons from 1954 was the choir's first filmed performance, but it was in fact this documentary about the wartime Christmas festivities of 1940.

The second recording of the choir is a set of six BBC transcription 78rpm records of the live radio broadcast of the 1945 carol service.

From this very broadcast, listen to Harold Darke accompanying the choir as they sing his own setting of 'In the bleak mid-winter.'

Boris Ord's first televison broadcast : 1954
Director of Music:  1929-1957

The complete live television broadcast of the 1954
Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols.

Read about the special 'Telerecording' equipment which produced this recording.

All photos are from the 1954 ​broadcast
click any photo to enlarge

First LP release of A Festival of Lessons & Carols : 1954

The LP, directed by Boris Ord, was recorded during special sessions in 1954 with the music being the same as the TV broadcast.  
In the TV broadcast the solo in Bach's ‘And there were shepherds’ and the reading of the first lesson were by the Senior Chorister, R.L. Strickland  (see the video clip of the service above)  In the LP,  Strickland reads the first lesson, but the Bach solo is performed by Michael West. 
Both the TV broadcast and the LP the solo of ‘Once in Royal David’s City is sung by Rodney Williams, who was to become a Lay Vicar at Westminster Abbey and a choral conductor of some note.

David Willcocks
Director of Music: 1957-1973

First radio broadcast: 1957
First television broadcast: 1963

Photo of Willcocks conducting his first Carol service radio broadcast ​in 1957

Cover of the 1958
Radio Times

From this 1958 radio broadcast listen to
'Once in Royal David's City'

These photographs are of the second TV broadcast in 1964
click any photo to enlarge

Desert Island Discs  :  BBC Radio broadcasts

David Willcocks: 1998
Amongst other topics, Sir David talks about the Carol Service

Quinten Poole: 1970
Head Chorister of King's and the youngest person ever to have been a 'castaway',  Quinten talks about spending Christmas at King's

Philip Ledger
Director of Music: 1973-1982

First radio broadcast: 1974
First television broadcast: 1975

'Christmas Carols from Cambridge' : 1978

Filmed by EMI Videogram productions, a short lived venture in which EMI 'would explore the means of making programmes to be seen on television.'
This was one such production, filmed earlier in the year and broadcast by BBC television both on Christmas Eve and at 8.55am Christmas Day, 1978.
At 3.00pm on Christmas Day BBC television also broadcast their own filming of 'A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.'
The film was simultaneously released on VHS Video by EMI.

1978 radio broadcast

Stephen Cleobury
Director of Music: 1982-2019

First radio & television broadcast: 1982

'Christmas at King's'
24 December 1982 before the 'Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols
A radio documentary to coincide with Stephen Cleobury's first broadcast of the service.

A look behind the scenes at the preparations for the annual carol service.  Brian Kay 
(choral scholar and ex-member of The King's Singers) talks to choristers past and present.

Choristers taking a keen interest in the technology

Making sure the reading is perfect

Making sure the hair is perfect!

...camera's rolling!

'What sweeter music'
radio broadcast 24 December 1988 
In the words of the Radio Times: “What sweeter music can we bring, than a carol for to sing? The opening lines from one of the many carols specially composed for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Cambridge.
To mark its 70th anniversary, Brian Kay traces the history of this magical service, and talks to choristers, clergymen, composers and directors of music who have participated.”

In 1992 a complete service with all nine lessons was issued on video jointly by the BBC and Decca.  Broadcast by the BBC on 24 December 1992 and billed in the Radio Times as ‘A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.’ 
A week earlier, on the 15th December, the seminal documentary on King's College Choir was broadcast as part of the BBC 'Omnibus' series.  This performance of Stanford's Beati Quorum is taken from that documentary.

Stanford's Beati quorum: 1992

Radio Times for 1990

'Once in Royal David's City' 
from the opening of the 2013 service

100 Years of Nine Lessons & Carols
'Once in Royal David's City'

100 Years of Nine Lessons & Carols
'O Holy Night'