When Stephen Cleobury came to King's in 1982 he was keen to demonstrate a commitment to contemporary music for the College's liturgies. He decided that one way of doing this would be to commission a new carol each year for inclusion in A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols; thus a new tradition was born.
The first composer to be commissioned was Lennox Berkeley, and amongst those who have followed him are Thomas Adés, Judith Bingham, James Macmillan, John Rutter, Judith Weir, to name but a few. The most recent commissions are:
Commissioned carol 2022
Music Director Daniel Hyde commissioned Matthew Martin, Precentor and Director of College Music at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, to write the new carol for 2022. Matthew Martin's setting of the text Angelus ad Virginem serves as a tribute to the late great Simon Preston CBE (chorister and later organ scholar at King’s).
Commissioned carol 2021
Cecilia McDowall was commissioned by the Director of Music, Daniel Hyde, composing There is no rose.
Commissioned carol 2020
Commissioned carol 2019
Philip Moore was commissioned by the new Director of Music, Daniel Hyde, composing a new setting of The Angel Gabriel.
Commissioned carol 2018
Judith Weir wrote her second commissioned carol for this service with O mercy divine for choir and cello. It is available to listen at King's College Recordings.
Commissioned carol 2017
Welsh composer Huw Watkins produced a setting of part of the welsh Plygain carol, Carol Eliseus. It is available to listen at King's College Recordings.
Commissioned carol 2016
Michael Berkeley composed This Endernight, based on a traditional 15th century Christmas text. It is available to listen at King's College Recordings.
Commissioned carol 2015
Richard Causton, Fellow in Music at King’s, set a new poem by George Szirtes to music for his carol The Flight.
Commissioned carol 2014
Carl Rütti set to music the medieval hymn De Virgine Maria.
Commissioned carol 2013
Thea Musgrave wrote a setting of the William Blake poem Hear the voice of the Bard (1794).
Commissioned carol 2012
Australian composer Carl Vine wrote this year's carol, which was a setting of Tennyson's poem Ring Out, Wild Bells. For Vine, the poem 'inventively encapsulates the core Christian principles of community, generosity and kindness.'
Commissioned carol 2011
This year's commissioned carol was a setting of Christina Rossetti's Christmas Eve by Tansy Davies. It is available to listen at King's College Recordings.
Commissioned carol 2010
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara composed the commissioned carol for 2010, which was simply called Christmas Carol.
Commissioned carol 2009
This year the composer Gabriel Jackson used GK Chesterton's The Christ Child Sat On Mary's Lap as the text for his carol. It is available to listen at King's College Recordings.
Commissioned carol 2008
This year the commission went to the British composer Dominic Muldowney, who wrote Mary.
Commissioned carol 2007
The commission for the Festival in 2007 went to the Australian composer, Brett Dean and his composition, Now comes the dawn, which uses a poem by Richard Watson Gilder, was broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Eve. It is available to listen at King's College Recordings.