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K is for…King’s College, Cambridge

It’s unlikely that you have been taken by surprise by the fact that today, 11 December,  we are featuring the choir responsible for the most famous choral Christmas broadcast in the world.

King's College Cambridge

Photo: Leon Hargreaves

View our complete Advent Calendar here

Did you know that this year, the first for the choir’s new Director, Daniel Hyde, will be the 100th anniversary of the singing of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ at the opening of the service?

Although the Festival began in 1918, as a way of marking the end of the First World War and the losses suffered by the college during that conflict, ‘Once in Royal’ was not used until the following year.  Perhaps being the boy to sing the solo on its 100th anniversary will make it extra special for whichever chorister is chosen, at the very last minute, to sing the first verse live on air.


Here is a taste of the last 100 years at King’s. You can listen to 30 second clips here, or login to Spotify to hear the whole playlist:

King’s may be famous for its Nine Lessons and Carols, but it can’t take the credit for devising the service.  If you don’t already know, keep following our blog and we will reveal who did before 24th December!

Choristers wearing Santa hats in a crocodile

Photo: Benjamin Sheen/King’s College, Cambridge

Today, the choristers and choral scholars at King’s are busy rehearsing and doing sound checks with the BBC ahead of the filming of Carols from Kings.  A little-known fact is that they also record ‘Easter from Kings’ at the same time!  And the work goes on; before the famous Christmas Eve service, the choir is also performing its annual Christmas concert at the Barbican Hall in London.

But Christmas Eve is one of the choristers’ favourite days; after the service their families all gather together and share a big meal in celebration.  No doubt this will be tinged with sorrow this year as they remember the sad loss of former director and president of FCM Sir Stephen Cleobury.

Here he is directing the choir last year:

Sir Stephen and his unparalleled contribution to cathedral music will be very greatly missed but his wonderful legacy lives on, and we are excited to hear the choir sing under their new director this Christmas Eve.

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Find out more about the music and services at King’s College, Cambridge