With rebroadcast on Christmas Day at NOON
This is a live stereo music and spoken-word broadcast from the chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England. The 30-voice King’s College Choir performs the legendary Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols service of Biblical readings and music at 10 a.m. on Dec. 24th and an encore broadcast takes place at NOON on Dec. 25th.
In 1918, the then-new dean of King’s Chapel, 34-year-old Eric Milner-White, wanted to try something innovative and beyond the standard liturgy of the Church of England. So, he wove together scripture and song, called on readers of various ages from school and town, and made up this truly magical progression that carries us from prophecy to fulfillment, from Old Testament foretelling to a birthday celebration.
The 2015 service booklet will be available here closer to the performance date.
History of the service
Our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who at the age of 34 had just been appointed Dean of King’s, after experience as an army chaplain which had convinced him that the Church of England needed more imaginative worship.
A revision of the Order of Service was made in 1919, involving rearrangement of the lessons, and from that date the service has always begun with the hymn ‘Once in Royal David’s City’.
The service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel.
Sometime in the early 1930’s the BBC began broadcasting the service on the World Service. It is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide, including those to Radio Four in the United Kingdom.
In recent years it has become the practice to broadcast a digital recording on Christmas Day on Radio Three, and since 1963, a shorter service, which uses different music and readings, has been filmed periodically for television.
There is also a more detailed history of the service.