Random thoughts from Pencefn

…. an engineer, singer and photographer living in Scotland

‘Twas the week before Christmas 3 – Service of Lessons and Carols (22 December 2011)

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North Aisle of Southwark Cathedral

North Aisle of Southwark Cathedral


In contrast to last year, when I attended the Nine Lessons and Carol service at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow, this year I attended the Service of Lessons and Carols at Southwark Cathedral. Arriving about 45 minutes before the service, the Nave and Side Aisles were full. We sat in the North Transept, where although the choir could not be seen, there is a good balance between organ and the vocals. Two years ago, we were in the South Transept, where the organ is located and dominates the aural effect. By the time the service started, the Retrochoir was full, and the space in the chancel not being used by the choir was also taken. I am told that this represents around 1,700 people.

Introduced by Acting Dean, Rev Canon Andrew Nunn, the service followed the traditional Carol Service format of lessons and carols, but only seven lessons.

  • Music before the service – Rhapsodie sur des noels (Gigout)
  • Once in Royal David’s City (descant by David Willcocks)
  • Bidding Prayer led by Rev Canon Andrew Nunn, Acting Dean
  • Choir – Ding Dong Merrily on High (arr. Charles Wood)
  • First Lesson – Genesis 3. 8-15 – in which God tells sinful Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise
  • Come, thou long expected Jesus
  • Second Lesson – Isaiah 9. 2, 6-7 – in which the prophet foretells the coming of the Saviour
  • Choir – Adam lay y-bounden (Boris Ord)
  • Third Lesson – Micah 5. 2-4 – The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem (descant by David Willcocks)
  • Choir – The Holly and the Ivy (Matthew Owens)
  • Fourth Lesson – Luke 1, 26-38 – The angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Choir – The Angel Gabriel (arr Edgar Petman)
  • Choir – The virgin’s slumber song (Max Reger)
  • Away in a manger
  • Fifth Lesson – Matthew 1.18-23 – in which Joseph is told of the annunciation
  • Choir – Candlelight Carol (John Rutter)
  • Sixth Lesson – Luke 2. 8-16 – The shepherds go to the manger
  • The First Nowell
  • Choir – Illuminare Jerusalem (Judith Weir)
  • Choir – Silent Night (arr. Bob Chilcott)
  • Seventh Lesson – John 1. 1-14 – in which the mystery of the Incarnation is unfolded
  • Choir – A babe is born (William Mathais)
  • Hark! the herald angels sing (descant by David Willcocks)
  • Prayer and Blessing from +Christopher, Bishop of Southwark
  • O Come all ye faithful (descant by David Willcocks)
  • Music after the service – Carillon Sortie (Mulet)

A wide selection of music, with something for everyone. Not to sure about one or two selections, specifically Illuminare Jerusalem by Judith Weir, as I did not feel is was appropriate for this type of “mass appeal” carol service.

Finally, I return to Glasgow. It was unfortunate that I was not able to attend the Nine Lessons and Carol service at St Mary’s Cathedral this year. There has been several blogs about it already. On Wednesday morning, it was mentioned on Radio Scotland’s Thought for the Day given by Dr Amanullah De Sondy. He had been invited to present a Qur’an reading as part of the the Carol Service, which gave the Islamic perspective on Jesus being born to Mary. Kevin reports back on the service in his blog. Being located in the West End of Glasgow, St Mary’s Cathedral is in the middle of a multi-cultural and multi-faith area, and Provost Kelvin Holdsworth’s invitation to Dr De Sondy reflects this.

Author: Stewart

An instrumentation engineer who enjoys photography and singing. Working in the West of Scotland; a member of St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow and Southwark Cathedral; and a volunteer guard/signalman on the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales.

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