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Merry Christmas

Christmas in Cambridge

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Each Christmas Eve morning for as long as I can remember, I've tuned into NPR's live broadcast of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College in Cambridge, England. Regardless of your religious persuasion, it is a dramatic musical experience: the Kings College Choir of men and boys, founded by Royal Charter in 1441, sings in the resonant Kings College Chapel, completed in 1515. And, while the service has basically adhered to the same structure since it was begun in 1918, it is far from fixed in the past: Choirmaster Stephen Cleobury has, for the past 30 years, commissioned a new carol for each year's service, with past composers including everyone from John Tavener to Arvo Pärt; many are revived in subsequent festivals. This year's commissionee is the young British composer Tansy Davies, whose carol "Christmas Has a Darkness" (based on a poem by Christina Rosetti) can be heard after the sixth lesson. (Go here to download the full service program.)

The service can be heard starting at 10am on WQXR 105.9FM or online.