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T is for…Truro

Today, 20 December, we are in Cornwall, visiting Truro Cathedral.

If you have been waiting since 11 December to find out which choral foundation was the first to hold the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, wait no longer! It was Truro Cathedral.

View our complete Advent Calendar here

Truro Cathedral Choir

Until 1879, the choir had traditionally sung Christmas carols in the streets, but the first Bishop of Truro, E W Benson, had other ideas. So, in 1880, Benson decided to hold a service on Christmas Eve. It couldn’t take place in the cathedral as it was not yet finished, so it was held in a large shed, which had been constructed as a temporary measure while the cathedral was being built. Benson chose nine lessons from the Bible and nine carols, led by the choir. The service started at 10pm, a time chosen to encourage people out of the pub and into the cathedral! The service proved hugely popular and has been adopted by churches all over the world, most famously, of course, at Kings College, Cambridge.

The choir has made a DVD with a live recording of its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and a documentary about the history of the service, presented by Jeremy Summerly, together with a reconstruction of the very first service on Christmas Eve 1880.

You can see a taster here:

The tradition of Nine Lessons and Carols continues in Truro. There will be two services this year, 7.00pm on Monday 23 December and Tuesday 24 December.

During the service on Christmas Eve, the boys and adults of the cathedral choir will sing the colourful carol ‘People, look east’ by Peter Tranchell, which has plenty to showcase the celebrated Father Willis organ, as well as the singers! Here is a live recording from a service last year:

Nine Lessons and Carols isn’t the only innovation of which Truro can be proud. Back in 2000, it was the first Cathedral Choir to deliver an outreach programme, another idea that cathedrals across the country have adopted with great success. And this year, they were the first and only cathedral choir to feature on Britain’s Got Talent, where they received a standing ovation from all four judges and demonstrated what we have always known – that there is an enormous amount of talent in the choral foundations across the country. You can watch their audition here:

Truro Cathedral Choir has an unbroken tradition dating back to the 1880s. Today, the choir usually performs with its twelve adult professional singers, joined by either its nineteen boy choristers or its eighteen girl choristers.

The twelve adult professional singers comprise seven Lay Vicars (permanent members of the choir) and five Choral Scholars (pre- or post-university students from all over the country and further afield).

The boy choristers are aged 8 to 13, and the girl choristers are aged 13 to 18; all attend Truro School and its preparatory school, where scholarships and bursaries are available, with the aim that selection is based purely on ability.

2019 has been a busy year for the choir. Highlights have included a tour to Austria and Slovakia for the boys and adults, a tour to London for the girls, a complete performance of Brahms’ German Requiem with pianist Noam Greenberg and a concert with the City of London Sinfonia (The Fruit of Silence) which was broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

The choir also launched their new CD of music by Dobrinka Tabakoya, which they recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra, who came to Truro to record the disc. The album has just received a Critic’s Choice 2019 recommendation in Gramophone Magazine.

The girl choristers have just made a video about their work in the choir. ‘We’re like one big family, really’, says one of the choristers.

Another said,

‘Not many people get to be part of something so professional. When you sing it’s always just amazing, really. It’s never mediocre!’

Watch the whole video here:


Listening to Truro Cathedral choir certainly is amazing. We at FCM agree – you are never mediocre! And you even do photoshoots with reindeer on the beach!

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Find out more about the music and services at Truro Cathedral