New Christmas Eve carol announced

Huw Watkins
Huw Watkins

King’s College Choir has performed a newly written carol at the famous Christmas Eve service A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols every Christmas since 1983. This year’s carol – the 35th carol commissioned by King’s for the Festival – is by Welsh composer Huw Watkins, who studied at King’s as an undergraduate and is now Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.

The carol, which will be heard in public for the first time on Christmas Eve this year, is a setting of part of the welsh Plygain carol Carol Eliseus, chosen by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Of the setting, Watkins writes:

“I was particularly delighted to have been asked to write this year's new carol, having been an undergraduate at King's in the ‘90s. As a non-Welsh-speaking Welshman, I was also thrilled and slightly daunted when Stephen Cleobury suggested a Welsh text. My mother (a native speaker) has helped me with the sounds and stresses of the words, and I feel like setting this language has unlocked an indefinable Welshness in my music. I wanted to write something pure and somehow artless, and all the time I've had that glorious acoustic in my head.”

The carol continues a tradition dating back to the beginning of Stephen Cleobury’s tenure as Director of Music at King’s, and is part of a long-standing contribution by the College to contemporary choral writing. Broadcast live around the world, the famous Christmas Eve service attracts many millions of listeners, all of whom will hear this carol for the first time. Commissioned carols from previous years have included Judith Weir’s Illuminare Jerusalem and John Rutter’s What Sweeter Music, as well as compositions by Jonathan Dove, Judith Bingham, John Tavener, Tansy Davies and many others.

The service is broadcast internationally on BBC World Service and on other public broadcasters, as well as on BBC Radio 4 in the UK. The broadcast begins at 3pm GMT on Christmas Eve.

Some recent commissioned carols are available on the Choir's recording Nine Lessons and Carols

23 October 2017