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Christmas Reflections at Ceremony of Carols

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The Ceremony of Carols in the Girls’ Division began in darkness with the Chamber Choir processing into the Great Hall to the ethereal notes of ‘Hodie’. The first verse of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ was sung by Vanessa Azavedo in Year 13, with the choir adding their voices for the second verse and the rest of the audience joining in as the Hall at last filled with light. The evening continued in traditional form, with lessons and carols that spoke of the true meaning of Christmas.

This year the Girls’ Division chose the Lamb of God, cradled in the manger, as the theme for the service. William Blake’s poem ‘The Lamb’ from Songs of Innocence featured in the programme both as a reading and a song performed exquisitely by the Chamber Choir. There was also a family flavour to the Ceremony of Carols, with many pairs of sisters and even a mother and daughter offering readings to reflect the wider family of the School community.

The readings throughout considered the message of Christmas and what is most important at this time of year: particularly poignant were John Betjeman’s poem ‘Christmas’ and ‘Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus’ by C S Lewis. ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ by Dylan Thomas helped to further reflect the simple joys of Christmas time. There were also readings of ‘Gabriel’s Revelation’ by G Rust, ‘What the Donkey Saw’ and ‘Reindeer Report’ by U A Fanthorpe, ‘Ballad of the Bread Man’ by C Causley, and a Biblical reading of St John Chapter I.

All of the School’s choirs were in fine voice throughout the evening. The Middle School Choir sang ‘Little Clouds’, with Year 8 pupil Holly Fowler giving voice to a stunning solo. The Senior Choir performed three pieces: the jolly ‘Shepherd’s Pipe Carol’, a soothing ‘Seal Lullaby’ at the heart of the programme, and a traditional version of ‘Away in a Manger’ with vibrant solos. In addition to their rendition of ‘The Lamb’, the Chamber Choir gave a beautiful performance of ‘What Sweeter Music’ and also sang the intense and percussive piece ‘No Room, No Room’.

The combined Choirs sang two pieces that are traditionally part of the Ceremony of Carols programme, ‘The Holly and the Ivy’ as a round and ‘Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar’. They also sang ‘The Little Road to Bethlehem’.

The Accidentals sang ‘Jesus Christ the Apple Tree’ a capella and also created an enchanting version of ‘O Holy Night’. The group was directed by Year 13 pupil Caroline Blair.

The prayers were led by the Headmistress, Sue Hincks, and had been set to music by the Director of Music, Mrs Price. For the first time, the Girls’ Division School Prayer was set to music. The prayers were sung by Sixth Form pupils Sêren Davies, Holly Errington, Siân Rowlands and Ella Smyth.

In addition to singing from the choirs, the audience joined in for a number of traditional carols: ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, ‘Hark! The Herald-Angels Sing’, ‘The First Nowell’ and ‘It Came Upon A Midnight Clear’. Year 13 pupil Amy Henderon provided a wonderful solo during the third verse of ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’, and the service ended with a rousing chorus of ‘Adeste Fideles’.

The Chamber Choir ended the service as it had begun, processing out in darkness to ‘Hodie’.

Afterwards, the audience offered the singers their congratulations and the Headmistress invited everyone to come along for refreshments in the form of mince pies, Christmas cake and drinks, with entertainment provided by the String Quartet. In particular there was a gathering of Old Girls and former staff after the Ceremony of Carols, which was as popular as ever. A retiring collection was held in support of Bolton Hospice.


Click the links below to watch videos from the Ceremony of Carols:

Hodie & Once in Royal Davids City

Little Clouds (Middle School Choir)

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (The Accidentals)

Seal Lullaby (Senior Choir)

No Room, No Room (Chamber Choir)

Away in a Manger (Senior Choir)

Prayers set to music

The Little Road to Bethlehem (Combined Choirs)


Click here or on the links below to listen to a selection of songs (audio only) via the School's Soundcloud:

The Lamb (Chamber Choir)

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (The Accidentals)

No Room, No Room (Chamber Choir)

The Holly and the Ivy (Combined Choirs)

Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar (Combined Choirs)


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