Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Commissioned Carol for King's College, Cambridge

On Christmas Eve, the great Choir of King's College, Cambridge will present its annual Lessons and Carols. Since 1982, the Choir has commissioned a new Christmas carol for the service: this year, Thea Musgrave wrote the music for a Willliam Blake poem:

 This year's commissioned carol for A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols has been composed by Thea Musgrave. It is a setting of the William Blake poem 'Hear the voice of the Bard' (1794).

The composer said: "It was with the greatest pleasure that I accepted a commission to write a carol for the famous choir of King's College, Cambridge, and their conductor Stephen Cleobury.

"After much consideration I chose one of the poems from the Songs of Experience by William Blake.

"The poem speaks of how the 'Bard's Voice' calls out to the 'lapséd soul' and for the 'Holy Word' to renew the 'fallen light'. It also calls for the earth to return after a long night; for the dawn to come and so for the sun to reappear."

Musgrave has won numerous awards for her large and varied body of work and received a CBE in 2002.

The poem she selected:

HEAR the voice of the Bard,
Who present, past, and future, sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word
That walk’d among the ancient trees;

Calling the lapsèd soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen light renew!

‘O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass!
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumbrous mass.

‘Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day.’

In keeping with my fascination with Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I think I should note that Thea Musgrave wrote an operatic adaptation, with optional children's chorus!

More about the Lessons and Carols from the College website. I appreciate the clarity of the instructions for the queue for possible admittance to the service:

If you would like to attend the service, please join the queue at the main entrance to the College. Normally anyone joining the queue before 9am will get in, but we cannot guarantee this. The queue is admitted into the Chapel at 1.30pm and the service begins at 3pm. The service ends at around 4.30pm. Please note that the service is not suitable for young children. There is no charge for attending, as with any service in the Chapel. A retiring collection is taken after the service for the maintenance of the Chapel.

Arrangements for those who want to queue are as follows:
  1. The only entrance to the College will be via the main gate on King's Parade. All other gates will be locked.
  2. Members of the public in the queue will be admitted to the College grounds via the front gate from 7.30am.
  3. The Porters will monitor the number of people joining the queue and, once there are as many people in the queue as there are seats available, members of the public will be advised that it is unlikely that they will be able to attend the service.
  4. Bags and packages cannot be taken into the Chapel and must be deposited with the Porters in the designated area.
  5. Once inside the College grounds toilet facilities are available and refreshments can be purchased from the College coffee shop.
Then the program has more detailed instructions about silence and decorum for those attending, since the service is broadcast live on the BBC:

In order not to spoil the service for other members of the congregation and radio listeners, please do not talk or cough unless it is absolutely necessary. Please turn off chiming digital watches and mobile phones. . . .
And, whatever you do, don't talk during the organ prelude!

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