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Canterbury at Christmas

Canterbury at Christmas

[hidden]This article is part of our December 2012 E-bulletin. To receive future issues, please subscribe here.[/hidden]

The Cathedral enjoys sharing the celebration of the birth of Jesus with the whole community; with four beautifully lit Christmas trees and a life-size nativity scene, the Cathedral provides a place for reflection and renewal away from the sometimes manic stress that can accompany the Christmas season.

17We hold 20 extra Services throughout Advent, from Christingle to St Nicholas, community Carols to Choral ensembles: truly, there is something for everyone. All these extra Carol Services and other forms of worship need careful planning and rehearsal; and, for many of our hard working staff and volunteers, the preparation and planning for the Cathedral’s Christmas starts in summer; and doesn’t end until after Epiphany. For one department, however the pressure is intense to make sure that Christmas is note perfect…

The archetypal image of Christmas, for many, includes the celestial tones of a choir; and at this time of year, our own world famous Choir are working flat out to ensure that they do not disappoint. We caught up with Dr David Flood, Organist and Master of the Choristers to find out how they prepare for Christmas

Some shopkeepers like Christmas to begin in October but for a Cathedral musician it lasts most of the year. Publishers and composers send sample copies of their Christmas pieces almost all the time and sometimes several times over.  Many of them are worth serious consideration but not all!
The proper preparation begins once Advent is under way. Since we have an Advent Carol Service, with its own distinct repertoire, we can’t begin on Christmas work until then. By the end of November, I have a good idea of the “long list” of material which will be considered for the Carol Services and the Christmas Day Services. I try and bring in something new every year but, at the same time, keep some of the favourites to which people look forward. The main thing is to recognise how little time we have for rehearsals once the middle of December is upon us. I have just two dedicated hours to rehearse all the Carol Service and Christmas Day material in the Cathedral. Every other rehearsal is before another service (with its own Advent music) and in the practice room.
The choristers have a week off from about the 7th December in order to try and clear any coughs and colds, and have a rest before the major work begins. The rest of us continue as normal! There is a Carol Service (or two) in the Cathedral every weekday from the beginning of December, and most need an organist and some rehearsals, so that keeps us busy. Once the boys are back, then we prepare the music with a daily round of rehearsals; but they also have outings and entertainments arranged so that party mood can begin as well.
One of the most awaited moments is the choice of the soloists for the beginning of the two Carol Services. Each boy has a chance to sing the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City in turn, in a normal rehearsal; and then we agree on two soloists and two reserves – just in case the dreaded cold virus strikes. We then have a rehearsal on the pulpitum steps so they can get the feel of the situation. You will be amazed to know that each one of them is really keen to do it!
The Christmas dinner in the Choir House on Christmas Eve is a black tie affair and the party hosted by the Archbishop and Mrs Williams at the Old Palace afterwards is great fun. The most important thing is the sleep that has to happen afterwards: there can be no waiting for Santa to arrive when there are still a dozen or more pieces to be sung on the next day! For a chorister, Christmas in the Cathedral is wonderful; and when you get home,you have the celebration all over again!

Dr David Flood

The Choir will be at a number of celebrations this Christmas, please see our events and service list for further details.

To end this year with a cracker of a prize, we thought we would offer you the perfect New Year’s Day hamper: a selection of Cathedral Chutneys, Marmalade and a Canterbury Cathedral 2013 Calendar. As it is Christmas, there’s no guessing involved, all we want you to do it tell us why you like reading the e-bulletin!

Email us at by 28th December 2012 and the New Year’s hamper could be winging its way to you.

Well done to our Christmas goodies winner Julia Savage who correctly answered that the photograph of the Cathedral published in the last e-bulletin was a mirror image.
Choristes singing in the quire

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