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X is for…(E)xeter

No, we haven’t really found a UK choral foundation beginning with ‘X’ – if there’s one out there, do get in touch, we’d love to hear from you! We’re excited, though, to be able to feature Exeter Cathedral, today, 24th December.

View our complete Advent Calendar here

The choristers have been working hard to prepare for Christmas since the end of November, when they welcomed forty-five prospective choristers to sing with them in the Cathedral’s Christingle service, to a packed house of over five hundred.

Exeter Cathedral Messiah 2019

Through December, following the Advent Carol Service, the choir has sung a sell-out performance of Handel’s “Messiah”, led three light-hearted “Christmas with the Cathedral Choir” concerts (including many silly hats) and sung for local businesses, in addition to its daily round of rehearsals and worship. It’s not all been hard work: the choristers have been to see “Cinderella” and yesterday the choir went to see the new “Star Wars” film.

The highlight of Exeter’s Christmas celebrations is tonight’s service of lessons and carols, known as the “Grandisson Service”, named after John de Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter 1327-69, Exeter’s longest-serving bishop.

Grandisson, who oversaw the completion of the cathedral as it stands, revised its liturgy; the Grandisson service opens exactly as prescribed in his Ordinale Exoniensis, still held in the Cathedral’s Library and Archive.  Here is the original manuscript and today’s order of service.

Opening of the Grandisson Service Grandisson Ordinale

Two choristers appear with tapers in the darkened cathedral proclaiming the birth of the “King of Heaven”, and the full choir responds, out of sight from the Retroquire. The choristers process through the quire to the Pulpitum screen, where they are joined by the Precentor, who sings the glad tidings into the Nave. The choir sings these words to a fine setting by Sir Thomas Armstrong, Organist and Master of Choristers at Exeter 1928-33. With the exception of the musical setting, Christmas Eve today is marked, six hundred and fifty years after Grandisson’s death, as it was in 1369.

The Grandisson Service 2018

Natalie (Year 8) says:

“I really enjoy Christmas at Exeter Cathedral – it gives us lots of opportunity to sing. I don’t mind giving up Christmas at home, because it’s such fun. I really loved this year’s Advent Procession and am looking forward to the Grandisson Service.”

James (Year 7) says:

“It’s great being at the Cathedral for Christmas, because I get to be with all my friends. I still get to have Christmas at home, too. I love the services, but we have great fun at the panto and films. I really loved singing Messiah, and in the concerts, we got to wear silly hats! I’m looking forward to the Grandisson service, too.”

Here is a video of last night’s rehearsal:

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