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Choir & Organ is the leading independent magazine for all professionals and amateurs in the choral and organ worlds – whether you are an organist, choral director or singer, organ builder, keen listener, or work in publishing or the record industry, Choir & Organ is a must-read wherever you live and work.

Every two months our expert contributors bring you beautifully illustrated features on newly built and restored organs, insights into the lives and views of leading organists, choral directors and composers, profiles of pioneering and well-established choirs, and topical coverage of new research, festivals and exhibitions. In keeping with our commitment to music at the cutting edge, we commission a new work from a young composer in every issue, making the score freely available for download and performance.

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Pull out all the stops

O come, all ye faithful

22 November 2013

Bishop Benson, first Bishop of Truro and initiator of Nine Lessons with Carols
Bishop Benson, first Bishop of Truro and initiator of Nine Lessons with Carols

On 17 December, Truro Cathedral will hold a service that reconstructs the first ever Nine Lessons with Carols. The format of Nine Lessons with Carols was an innovation by the 19th-century Bishop Benson, and the first service was held in Truro Cathedral at 10pm on Christmas Eve 1880 (the format was translated to King’s College, Cambridge – with which venue it is now most closely associated – in 1918). At that time, the Cathedral was a temporary wooden structure where services took place during the construction of the present Gothic Revival building. 


A copy of the original order of service survives and provides the framework for the 17 December event. However, the Cathedral explains that, given the changing congregational repertoire over the last 130 years, there will be a few differences so that ‘the end result … is a service people will attend, not an essay in a musicological journal. We have also considered the resources we have at our disposal today and attempted to integrate the 1880 service as seamlessly as possible with them.  Important among these is our cathedral choir, which still exists in its original form of boys and men.’   

The original service included the following items: The Lord at first had Adam made; Good Christian men, rejoice; The first Nowell; Once again, O blessed time; three movements from Handel’s Messiah; Bethlehem! of noblest cities; O come, all ye faithful; and a Magnificat.   Thanks to research by Richard Longman, the Cathedral says it is confident ‘that all of the items entitled “Carol” in the 1880 order of service were sung to music from Bramley and Stainer’s Christmas Carols, New and Old. Copies of this carol book are to be found alongside the 1880 order of service in Cornwall Record Office, stamped with “Truro Cathedral Choir”, and the collection contains all four of the carols used in 1880.’ 

The service on 17 December begins at 7pm; there will be a congregational rehearsal before the service begins to familiarise those attending with the slightly different versions of the hymns. www.trurocathedral.org.uk

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pull out the stops 2014

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