Christmas and the Gift of Music in All Our Lives

By Cullingford, Martin | Gramophone, December 2015 | Go to article overview

Christmas and the Gift of Music in All Our Lives


Cullingford, Martin, Gramophone


This Christmas Eve, as they have for almost a century, the congregation in the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, will take their seat for the annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Many will have queued for hours in the fierce Fenland cold to be part of this famous and evocative tradition. In greater warmth, individuals, families perhaps, will tune in to BBC Radio 4 and other stations worldwide. They, as the hosting vicar at the beginning of Radio 3's Choral Evensong (another beloved religious and musical tradition), reminds us every week, are part of the service too.

For King's, several significant events are being marked this year. It's 500 years since the chapel was finished, since that extraordinary soaring stonework and vaulting became one of the defining monuments of Gothic architecture. But 2015 was also the year Sir David Willcocks, Director of Music at King's for 17 years, died aged 95. As befits someone whose descants have come to define the way many of us hear certain carols, not least Hark! the herald angels sing, the service will feature some of his arrangements. It will also feature a setting by John Scott, Organist and Director of Music at St Thomas, New York, who died earlier this year at the much younger age of 59.

The contribution both conductors made to all our musical lives are explored in this issue: in Willcocks's case through our review of Decca's richly fascinating new box-set of his recordings with King's; in Scott's case through a poignant piece written shortly before his death by one of our writers who attended the recording sessions of St Thomas's beautifully performed new Christmas album, 'Dancing Day', one of my Editor's Choices in this issue. …

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