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. A CD recording of the commissioned carols entitled, 'On Christmas Day: New carols from King's' was released by EMI in 2005.

Commissioned carol 2016

Michael Berkeley composed the Christmas commissioned carol.

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.

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 has used GK Chesterton's 'The Christ Child Sat On Mary's Lap' as the text for his carol. Gabriel is a leading composer of choral music who has written pieces for the BBC, the Tate Gallery and the National Centre for Early Music.

He said: 'While writing the piece I was thinking all the time about the wondrous space that is the King's Chapel, the special atmosphere of the service, the acoustic of the building, and the unique sound of the King's choir in that building. Now that it is finished I cannot wait for Christmas Eve, to be there in the Chapel at King's and to hear my piece quietly take its place in the age-old rite, as Stephen and his choir work their magic once again.'

Commissioned carol 2008

This year the commission has gone to the British composer Dominic Muldowney. Muldowney has written extensively for film and television, including scores for 1984 (1984), Sharpe's Eagle (1993) and King Lear (1997). He has also written concert pieces, including a piano concerto and a saxophone concerto, and he has worked with pop musicians such as Sting and David Bowie. For this year's carol Muldowney has used an early text by Berthold Brecht about the Virgin Mary.

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.

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