A new work has been commissioned for King’s very special Christmas Eve service - A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols - every year since 1983. The tradition was started by Sir Stephen Cleobury. Since then, a diverse and varied list of composers have added to the repertoire of Christmas carols. It was Sir Stephen’s wish that the composers chosen should come from a broad range of the classical musical world, and so place choral music beyond simply its own sphere and more broadly within the contemporary musical world.
This year’s commissioned carol has been written by composer and Cambridge alumna Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and it will first be heard in public on Christmas Eve. The Cradle is a setting of an English translation by Robert Graves of an anonymous seventeenth century Austrian text.
I wanted to set myself the challenge of writing a gentle carol, and it took many attempts to come up with something that I hope is catchy yet not clichéd, and heartfelt yet not syrupy. The vivid imagery of this anonymous seventeenth century Austrian text in an English translation by Robert Graves was a joy to set, and I hope my music conveys both the intimacy and the glory of the poem.
I was absolutely delighted when Daniel Hyde asked me to write a carol for this year's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols: I have looked forward to finding out who wrote the new carol every year since I was a little girl, and always dreamed that one day it would be me!
King’s Director of Music, Daniel Hyde, added:
“Cheryl’s carol is a masterpiece in understatement, hauntingly beautiful and so carefully written for the current generation of King’s College Choir. We greatly look forward to singing The Cradle on Christmas Eve.”
The Cradle will be sung as part of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and on public radio stations around the world on Christmas Eve at 3pm GMT, and then on BBC Radio 3 on Christmas Day at 1pm.