Online resources

Celebrating Advent at St. John’s, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge is famous for having initiated (in 1918) the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. These special services are traditionally held on Christmas Eve. As early as 1934, Cambridge chapels were holding Advent Carol services on the first Sunday in Advent.

The most famous of these Advent services has been held at the Chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge. The BBC regularly broadcasts these services live. This year’s service can be heard until the end of December at this page.

The first live broadcast of the Advent Carol Service from St. John’s was in 1981. The director of the choir then was George Guest (1924-2002), a prominent figure in the English choir world.

A recording of that first broadcast is embedded below. The opening remarks, explaining the origins and liturgical logic of the service, were made by the Dean of Chapel, the Reverend Dr. Andrew Macintosh.

Here is a listing of the music heard during this service:

1. The Advent Prose (“Rorate caeli” Mode i)
2. Hymn: Hail to the Lord’s anointed (“Crüger”)
3. Syon, at thy shining gates (G. R. Woodward, arr George Guest)
4. A tender shoot (Otto Goldschmidt)
5. There is no rose (John Joubert)
6. Jesus Christ the apple tree (Elizabeth Poston)
7. Hymn: Lo, he comes with clouds descending (“Helmsley”)
8. King Jesus hath a garden (Dutch melody, arr Charles Wood)
9. The Linden Tree Carol (German melody, arr Reginald Jacques)
10. Hymn: O come, O come, Emmanuel (“Veni Emmanuel”)
11. Sans Day Carol (John Rutter)
12. Ding, dong, merrily on high (16th century French, arr Malcolm Williamson)
13. Magnificat in G (Herbert Sumsion)
14. Break forth, O beauteous, heavenly light (Johann Sebastian Bach)
15. Hymn: O come, all ye faithful (“Adeste fidelis”)