PREVIEW: Begin Christmas Eve with “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” on KUSC

By Robert D. Thomas
Music Critic
Southern California News Group

Earlier this month I began my column with the following: “Tradition permeates every facet of holiday celebrations, especially music. One has only to hear a measure of Silent Night or Jingle Bells to instantly recognize the song and, indeed, to sing it.” That statement will ring especially true tomorrow, which is Christmas Eve on the Christian calendar.

For me, Christmas Eve always begins at 7 a.m. PST when I pull up a chair and listen to the radio broadcast of “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” from the iconic chapel of King’s College in Cambridge, England. Begun in 1918 and first broadcast in 1928, the service has been broadcast every year since and churches around the world have adapted its format. Attending a service live was always on my travel bucket list. That probably won’t happen, so listening to the broadcast — locally on KUSC (91.5 FM in Los Angeles — it’s also on is the next best thing. If you’re outside of Los Angeles, check your station listings to see who is carrying it.

You can get all the details and can download the service booklet HERE. A word of caution: the BOOKLET is 52 pages long, so it will eat up lots of ink and paper. However, you can read it easily on a tablet, so consider that ecological step, instead.

One interesting aspect to the service is that, since 1982, the college has commissioned a carol for each service. This year’s composer is Michael Berkeley, who has created a new setting for the traditional 15th century Christmas text, This Endernight. Berkeley is the son of Lennox Berkeley, who in 1982 was the first composer tapped by King’s College Choir Director of Music Stephen Cleobury to compose a new carol. INFO

(c) Copyright 2016, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved. Portions may be quoted with attribution.

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