Multicultural Ceremony of Carols Heralds Christmas
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
With ten languages included in the programme, this year’s Ceremony of Carols truly was a multicultural experience. Current pupils and staff were joined in the Girls’ Division Great Hall by parents, Old Girls and friends of the School for this very special occasion.
The evening began with the traditional ‘Hodie’ in Latin, sung in darkness by the Chamber Choir as they processed into the Great Hall, which set the tone for the whole event. This was followed by a welcome from the Headmistress, Sue Hincks, and the customary first carol: ‘Once in Royal David’s City’. The solo first verse was beautifully sung by Caroline Blair in Year 11, with the choir joining her for the second verse before the whole congregation raised their voices for the remainder of the carol.
The choirs provided much beautiful music over the course of the evening. In addition to opening and closing the Ceremony of Carols with the ‘Hodie’, the Chamber Choir sang ‘Lully, Lulla, Lullay’ and added to the multicultural theme by performing ‘Bolingo’ in Nigerian. They also added a modern element with their rendition of ‘Mary, Did You Know?’
Younger pupils in the Middle School Choir also had their time in the spotlight. Year 7 pupil Taya Panter performed the solo first verse of ‘The Wexford Carol’, one of the oldest extant Christmas carols. The whole choir also gave an enthusiastic version of ‘Felicidad al Mundo Hoy’ in Spanish.
The Senior Choir offered up the traditional Scottish ‘Balulalow’, with Jessica Willcock in Year 13 providing the solo. In addition, they sang ‘Il est né le divin Enfant’ in French and English, and ‘Stille Nacht’ in German.
Girls’ Division a cappella group The Accidentals also gave a moving performance of ‘Jesus Christ the Apple Tree’.
The choirs combined to sing an energetic version of ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, performed as a round; and traditional Austrian carol ‘Still Still Still’, which included a solo from Charlotte Fielding. ‘Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar’ was also sung by the combined choirs, with the Senior and Chamber Choirs providing a lovely descant to the melody. This year, a traditional Arabic prelude performed by Iman Bhuta in Year 11 was added to this staple of the Ceremony of Carols to great effect.
Girls’ Division musicians accompanied a number of choral pieces: harpist Alexandra Hopkinson in Year 13, violinist Abigail Holt in Year 10, and flautists Amy Kadodwala in Year 13 and Isabel Harper in Year 10. The Girls’ Division Brass Ensemble also provided a spectacular fanfare at the opening of ‘Hark! The Herald-Angels Sing’.
Readings about the birth of Christ in English, French, German, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian and Welsh were interspersed throughout the ceremony. Miss Hincks also gave an uplifting Biblical reading from St John Chapter I.
One of the highlights of the Ceremony of Carols was the prayers, which were led by the Headmistress and performed by Year 13 pupils Eilidh Gibson, Natalie Henderson, Riya Kalhan, Anna Marie Linfitt, Elise Skeels-Caldwell and Jessica Willcock, the majority of whom had devised the prayers themselves. The words were adapted by Assistant Head Ms Bradford-Keegan and set to music by Mrs Price, the Director of Music.
In addition to enjoying the pupils’ performances, the audience were invited to join in with a number of well-known carols: ‘Hark! The Herald-Angels Sing’, ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, and ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’. The final carol of the evening was ‘Adeste Fideles’, and the Great Hall was filled with song as the choirs and audience lifted their voices at the close of the evening.
The Chamber Choir then ended the Ceremony of Carols with the ‘Hodie’, processing out in darkness.
Miss Hincks thanked the many members of staff who helped to put together the evening, including Mrs Price, Ms Bradford-Keegan, Mrs Kyle, and Mrs Shafiq who assisted the girls with pronunciation in their foreign language readings. She then invited the audience to join pupils and staff for refreshments on the B Corridor. There was a festive atmosphere as everyone enjoyed mulled wine, mince pies, Christmas cake and other treats, as well as Christmas music from two of the Girls’ Division ensembles. Among the guests chatting over drinks were more than eighty Old Girls who had attended the Ceremony of Carols; they were delighted to be able to catch up and share their memories of the event from when they were pupils themselves.