A new carol for King's by Cheryl Frances-Hoad

A new carol for King's by Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Cheryl Frances-Hoad
© Pamela Davis Kivelson

For millions listening to the radio around the world, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, live from the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, marks the beginning of Christmas. The service 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.

The service was introduced in 1918 to bring a more imaginative approach to worship. It was first broadcast in 1928 and is now broadcast to millions of people. A new work has been commissioned for the service every year since 1983. 

Forty years on from that first commission, Chester Music composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad has written The Cradle, a setting of an English translation by Robert Graves of an anonymous seventeenth century Austrian text.

Daniel Hyde, Director of Music at King's, says: “The tradition of commissioning a carol each year for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was started by Sir Stephen Cleobury in 1983. Since then, a diverse and varied list of composers have added to the repertoire of Christmas carols. It was Sir Stephen’s wish that the composers chosen should come from a broad range of the classical musical world, and so place choral music beyond simply its own sphere and more broadly within the contemporary musical world.

"Cheryl’s carol is a masterpiece in understatement, hauntingly beautiful and so carefully written for the current generation of King’s College Choir. We greatly look forward to singing The Cradle on Christmas Eve.”

Frances-Hoad comments: “I was absolutely delighted when Daniel Hyde asked me to write a carol for this year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge: I have looked forward to finding out who wrote the new carol every year since I was a little girl, and always dreamed that one day it would be me!

"I wanted to set myself the challenge of writing a gentle carol, and it took many attempts to come up with something that I hope is catchy yet not clichéd, and heartfelt yet not syrupy. The vivid imagery of this anonymous seventeenth century Austrian text in an English translation by Robert Graves was a joy to set, and I hope my music conveys both the intimacy and the glory of the poem.” 

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols 

Christmas Eve, Sunday December 24 2023, 15:00 GMT
Live on BBC Radio and MPR 
A service of carols, hymns and readings, live from the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge.

Hymn: Once in royal David's City (Irby, descant Ledger)
Bidding Prayer (read by the Dean)
Carol: Out of your sleep (Robin Nelson)
First lesson: Genesis 3 vv. 8-19 (read by a Chorister)
Carol: Adam lay ybounden (Matthew Martin)
Second lesson: Genesis 22 vv. 15-19 (read by a College student)
Carol: Illuminare Jerusalem (Judith Weir)
Third lesson: Isaiah 9 vv. 2, 6-7 (read by a member of College staff)
Carol: O radiant dawn (James MacMillan)
Hymn: O Little town of Bethlehem (Forest Green, descant Armstrong)
Fourth lesson: Isaiah 11 vv. 1-9 (read by the Master over the Choristers)
Carol: King Jesus hath a garden (Trad. Dutch arr. Wood, Cleobury)
Carol: A spotless rose (Philip Ledger)
Fifth lesson: Luke 1 vv. 26-38 (read by a Fellow)
Carol: Gabriel’s message (Trad. Basque, arr. Willcocks)
Carol: Hereford Carol (arr. Robinson)
Sixth lesson: Luke 2 vv. 1-7 (read by the Mayor of Cambridge)
Carol: Sir Christemas (Mathias)
Hymn: The first Nowell the angel did say (The first Nowell, arr. Willcocks)
Seventh lesson: Luke 2 vv. 8-20 (read by the Director of Music)
Carol: The Cradle (Cheryl Frances-Hoad) – 2023 Commission
Eighth lesson: Matthew 2 vv. 1-12 (read by the Vice-Provost)
Carol: All the stars looked down (John Rutter)
Carol: Benedicamus Domino (Warlock)
Ninth lesson: John 1 vv. 1-14 (read by the Provost)
Hymn: O come, all ye faithful (Adeste Fideles, arr. Willcocks, Daniel Hyde)
Collect and Blessing
Hymn: Hark, the herald angels sing (Mendelssohn, arr. Willcocks)

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

Daniel Hyde, Director of Music 
Paul Greally, Organ Scholar 
The Revd Dr Stephen Cherry, Dean 
The Revd Dr Mary Kells, Chaplain 
Ben Collingwood, Producer

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