The traditional ‘Festival of Nine Lessons with Carols’ may have long associations with King’s College Cambridge but its popularity at St. James’ Stalmine, makes it a firm favourite in the local Christmas calendar.

Nine short Bible readings tell the story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah and the birth of Jesus interspersed with carols and choral music. The final reading from St. John, is the Gospel reading for Christmas Day.  In it, he unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation:

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only,

who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1: vv 1 – 14

The first Nine Lessons and Carols to be held at King’s College Cambridge, was on Christmas Eve 1918.  It was devised by the Dean, Eric Milner-White, as an alternative to the Christmas Eve, Book of Common Prayer, Evening Prayer service, and was based on an earlier service used in Truro Cathedral.
It has been broadcast from King’s College virtually every Christmas Eve since 1928 (being officially discontinued during WW2 for security reasons).

For Paul Buckmaster, (St. James’ Director of Music), this year’s Nine Lessons will be his 32nd. During this long period, the choir has sung seventy three different carols and arrangements in addition to the usual congregational ones.  This year’s ‘new’ carol was “Silent Night”, arranged by John Rutter, with some further rearrangements by Paul.  

Other pieces included ‘The Truth from Above’, to an English traditional tune arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams; and the tune, ‘The Ploughboy’s Dream’, often sung to the words “O little town of Bethlehem.  Born in 150 years ago in 1872, Vaughan Williams was an avid collector, arranger and user of folk melodies; as well as a composer of original music, such as “The Lark Ascending”.

The Advent journey is almost over…