Lessons & Carols

Christmas Eve Choral Prelude

by Derek E. Nickels, DMA

There isn't a whole lot of free time that many of us have between Thanksgiving and New Year's that could be described as "calm and serene," but there are traditions that all of us hold dear that do have a sense of serenity to them, especially when there is a great deal of preparation beforehand.  One tradition of preparation is our annual service of Lessons and Carols which will be on Sunday, December 7th, at 5:00 p.m.  This service, with its readings from Genesis, Isaiah, Luke, Matthew, and Mark, illuminates the proclamation of the Christ's birth and help sets the tone of the short season of Advent and joyous season of Christmas.  Intersprersed with the readings will be by music by Ledger, Stainer, Stanford, Nickels, Archer, and Manz.

Our Christmas Eve services at 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. will be preceded by a Choral Prelude of Christmas hymns and anthems sung by the choir and congregation beginning at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m.  While the origins of the Lessons and Carols service (both Advent and Christmas) began as a way of preparing the faithful for the Christmas Mass, our Christmas Eve liturgies will begin in a similar, yet modified way.  We will begin with Hymn 102 "Once in royal David's city," written for Cecil Frances Alexander's Hymns for Little Children in 1848.  This was intended to be a commentary on the third article of the Apostles' Creed, "who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary."  This text first appeared in the United States in 1865 when it was published in Cantica Sacra, a collection of hymns for the Roman Catholic Church.  This hymn remained relatively unknown until the 1950s when the recordings of the choir of King's College, Cambridge, became available.  It is now one of the most recognized tunes of the Christmas season.  Our Christmas Eve Choral Prelude will be augmented by a string ensemble that will accompany the choir and also enhance the 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. liturgies. The final work of this year's prelude will be the Concerto grosso fatto per la notte di Natale ("for the night of the Nativity") by Arcangelo Corelli.