A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols Archive

Commissioned Carols

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 and John Rutter, to name but a few. The more recent commissions are:

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 became the first composer to have written two commissions 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 called '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. 

Commissioned carol 2007

The commission for the Festival in 2007 went to the Australian composer, Brett Dean and his composition, 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.

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A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is the Christmas Eve service held in King's Chapel.
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Our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918.