Church of England Diocese in Europe

Carols and 9 Lessons.

12 Dec 2020, midnight
christmas Church_news Notices

The first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King's College, Cambridge, was held on Christmas Eve in 1918. During World War I the dean, Eric Milner-White, had served as army chaplain in the 7th Infantry Division and he was concerned that the distress of the "Great War" had hardened attitudes against religion. Taking advantage of the established choral tradition of the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, he introduced Benson's carol service to King's as a means of attracting people back to Christian worship. The first Nine Lessons service in King's College Chapel was held on Christmas Eve, 1918, directed by Arthur Henry Mann who was the organist from 1876 to 1929.<sup id="cite_ref-King's_College_Chapel:_History_10-0">[10]</sup>

The King's College service was immensely successful, and the following year Milner-White made some changes to Benson's original format, notably introducing the tradition of opening the service with a solo treble singing "Once in Royal David's City". This was then followed by a bidding prayer penned by Milner-White himself, and re-ordering the lessons.<sup id="cite_ref-McGrath_8-1">[8]</sup><sup id="cite_ref-11">[11]</sup><sup id="cite_ref-guardian-truro_4-2">[4]</sup> The choir had 16 trebles as specified in statutes laid down by Henry VI, and until 1927 the men's voices were provided by choral scholars and lay clerks. Today, 14 undergraduates from the choir sing the men's parts.<sup id="cite_ref-King's_College_Chapel:_History_10-1">[10]</sup>

The popularity of the service was established when the service began to be broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation in 1928, and, except for 1930, has been broadcast every year since. During the 1930s the service reached a worldwide audience when the BBC began broadcasting the service on its Overseas Service. Even throughout the Second World War, despite the stained glass having been removed from the Chapel and the lack of heating, the broadcasts continued. For security reasons, the name "King's" was not mentioned during wartime broadcasts.<sup id="cite_ref-King's_College_Chapel:_History_10-2">[10]</sup>