2018 is the 100th Anniversary of the Christmas Service of The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols sung by the Choir of King’s College and which has become the firm favourite of many Church of England followers. It has a direct military connection that many might not be aware of.
First held on Christmas Eve at King’s College Cambridge on Christmas Eve 1918, it was the idea of Eric Milner-White who had been an Army Chaplain in the First War. He wanted to inject some more fun and enjoyment into the Christmas Service as a result of his war service and the need to breathe some new life into Britain during its first Christmas after the War had ended.
The actual format had been in use in other churches for a few decades, but many had had to suspend it during the war as a result of losing too many members of the choir.
The service was first broadcast by the BBC in 1928 and except for one year has been transmitted around the UK and world ever since. Tens of millions are estimated to listen to the service each year.
The format of the current service is largely the same as the 1918 version, with “Once in Royal David’s City” always being the lead carol. According to tradition, the first verse is always sung by a solo boy chorister who is not told of his assignment until just before the music starts in order to minimise the stress and possible effect upon his voice.
A very Happy Christmas to all our Readers, and a Happy New Year.