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Ceremony of Carols Welcomes Yuletide

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Girls' Division opened its doors on a chilly winter's evening for the Ceremony of Carols. The evening began in solemn darkness: the Chamber Choir entered the hall singing the traditional Christmas Hodie in Latin as the lights came up around them. This was followed by a few words of welcome and the Bidding Prayer from the headmistress, Miss Sue Hinks. The Chamber Choir then subtly altered the mood of the evening again, giving the audience an uplifting rendition of Welcome Yule.

Once in Royal David's City is a staple of every Ceremony of Carols, and this year was no exception and no disappointment. Year 13 girl Holly Holt performed the first verse solo admirably, with the choir joining her for verse two and the congregation adding their voices for the rest of the carol. Later in the programme, the third verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem was performed as a solo by Jessica Ryan, also in Year 13.

The Ceremony of Carols gave the Middle School Choir a chance to shine. The girls gave a haunting rendition of Something Told the Wild Geese, and later in the programme sang I See A Star. The Accidentals, an a capella group of four Sixth Form girls, also had their moment in the spotlight singing O Holy Night. Performances of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from the Senior Choir and What Sweeter Music from the Chamber Choir also provided variety amongst the more traditional carols.

On a number of occasions throughout the evening the guests joined in with well-known carols: O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Hark! The Herald-Angels Sing; Joy to the World, the Lord is Come!; and a particularly rousing rendition of Adeste Fideles towards the end of the Ceremony.

There were readings from girls from Year 8 through to Year 13, each one highlighting a different aspect of Christmas. The words taken from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to describe the Cratchit Christmas and John Greenleaf Whittier's poem Somehow, Not Only For Christmas were particularly poignant.

The celebration became multi-lingual as the Senior Choir performed Spanish carol Ríu, Ríu, Chíu, and Stille Nacht in German. Sophie Bennett from Year 11 read the traditional "Noche de Paz" in Spanish. Although the language was unfamiliar to many of those present, it was clear from the delivery that the words held the same meaning as the other readings and songs.

The evening ended with the Chamber Choir proceeding out of the hall to the sound of the Hodie, the lights slowly dimming until darkness fell once more.

All guests were invited to join the students and staff for festive refreshments, including mince pies, orange juice and even mulled wine for the adults. A collection was held throughout for The Children's Adventure Farm Trust, which is the Girls' Division's chosen charity for the term. There was a really great atmosphere after the Ceremony, with the whole corridor decorated and two bands playing Christmas tunes.

It was particularly busy in one History classroom, where any Old Girls in attendance were invited to come together to reminisce. With 130 tickets for the Ceremony sent out to Old Girls, there was a brilliant turnout, and the informal reunion was full of smiles and happy memories.

The Choirs performing Three Kings From Persian Lands Afar at the Ceremony of Carols can be viewed here.

The Senior Choir performing Stille Nacht at the Ceremony of Carols can be viewed here.

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The congregation joined with the choirs to fill the hall with sound

The congregation joined with the choirs to fill the hall with sound

There were lovely readings from girls of all ages

There were lovely readings from girls of all ages

The joint Chamber Choir sang a number of traditional carols

The joint Chamber Choir sang a number of traditional carols