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W is for…Wells

Today, 23 December, we are travelling to Somerset. Although it is situated in England’s smallest city, Wells Cathedral is a very busy place during the festive season.

View our complete Advent Calendar here

Wells Cathedral from the fcm archive

The most spectacular Christmas events at Wells Cathedral in December must surely be the annual Candlelight Concerts which take place on 19, 20, and 21 December.

The Cathedral’s team of Virgers spends many hours in November setting out over 7,000 special slow-burning candles atop the pillars and higher levels of the Cathedral, to be lit especially for these concerts. Candles are added to the lower levels of the Cathedral on the afternoon of each concert, and all are lit by the Virgers and a team of volunteers. No electronic light is used for these concerts – the only light is from the 3,500 candles lit each evening. The concerts include Christmas music sung by the Cathedral Choir, as well as festive readings, and the Cathedral is very excited to welcome comedian and actress Sally Phillips as the Reader for two of these concerts.

Hear Wells Cathedral Choir singing Good King Wenceslas, arranged by Bob Chilcott.

Tonight the Cathedral Choir sings for one of its two annual, and very popular, Cathedral Carol Services (the other was last night). Previously named by Classic FM magazine as the ‘Top choice’ in the South West, having been held initially for just one night this has had to be extended to two to accommodate all who wish to attend. In 2018, around 2,500 people attended these two services.

On Christmas Eve two very special services are held for children, at 2.00pm and 3.15pm. The Crib Services are short, fun, thirty-minute services for children, who are invited to attend dressed as a character from the Nativity (although in previous years the Cathedral has also welcomed Spiderman and several of his superhero friends!). Again, the Cathedral holds two of these services as they are so popular.
This year, the 5.15pm Evensong service on Christmas Eve, and the Eucharist of Christmas Night, at 11.00pm, will be sung by the Vicars Choral and Schola Cantorum (the Cathedral’s group of professional adult sopranos). The Eucharist, which attracts many hundreds of people – some local, some who travel a great distance – will include the first performance of a new suite of liturgical music by David Bednall, which has been funded by Wells’ own Cathedral Commissions scheme.


Wells Cathedral choristers in the snow

Photo: Iain MacLeod-Jones

On Christmas Day the Cathedral Choir will sing for two services – the Eucharist at 9.30am and Matins at 11.30am, before they head home for Christmas dinner and a well-earned rest!

Friends of Cathedral Music has been delighted to help Wells’s Music Foundation. In March this year we made a Small Revenue Grant to go towards chorister vocal tuition over three years. This allowed the Cathedral to recruit a new Chorister Vocal Tutor, who provides singing lessons for all choristers throughout the week. According to Jeremy Cole, the newly appointed Director of Music, ‘This contribution has been a key part in our ability to set our choristers up to succeed with a focus on good vocal technique and vocal health throughout their time in Wells Cathedral Choir.’

We are very pleased indeed to be able to help choristers at Wells and across the country. Generous donations from our members and supporters make grants such as this possible.

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Find out more about the music and services at Wells Cathedral