King’s announces commissioned carol for Christmas Eve

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Cecilia McDowall (photo: Karina Lyburn)

The new carol for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve 2021 is a setting by Cecilia McDowall of There is no rose. McDowall is a multi-award-winning British composer, known particularly for her choral work, and who was most recently awarded the Ivor Novello Award for her ‘consistently excellent body of work’.

King’s College’s Director of Music, Daniel Hyde, asked McDowall to write something that would bring ‘a moment of stillness’ in the Christmas Eve service, giving her freedom to choose her own text.

McDowall told Choir & Organ Magazine: ‘For this carol I looked for words that would help me express a feeling of intimacy and quiet joy: a text that could lend itself to a slower tempo; nothing too animated. I have always loved the medieval poem There is no rose, and after looking through many different texts I felt this macaronic gem would be just the one to convey the spirit I was after. Of course, how could one not be aware of such exquisite existing settings, notably those of Britten and Joubert? And yet the intensity and beauty of these words seemed so appropriate for that quieter moment of contemplation within the service.’

This year’s new carol continues a tradition begun in 1983 by Sir Stephen Cleobury, with a new carol written for the popular Christmas Eve service every year since, except for 2020. There is no rose is commissioned by King’s College with support from the late Lucian Nethsingha, in whose memory the commission is written.

I am delighted that Cecilia McDowall has written a new setting of There is no rose for our Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols this year, with support from Lucian Nethsingha; Lucian was an undergraduate at King’s prior to a distinguished career at St Michael’s Tenbury and Exeter Cathedral. Lucian died earlier this year, and it is appropriate that we should honour his memory in this way.
Daniel Hyde, Director of Music

There is no rose will be premiered by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, conducted by Daniel Hyde, at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve, 24 December 2021. The service will be broadcast live on BBC Radio and on other public radio stations around the world. The score is published by Oxford University Press.

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