Songs of praise, aug 09. St A's and Chorale (11)The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a format for a service celebrating the birth of Jesus which is traditionally followed at Christmas.

The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols and hymns.

The format was based on an Order drawn up by Edward White Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for Christmas Eve (24 December) 1880 in Truro, Cornwall.

It has since been adapted and used by other churches all over the world.

The best-known version is broadcast annually from King’s College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve. It features carols by the famous Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.

People start queuing the night before to attend the King’s College service.

In the best tradition of King’s College, St Andrew’s Anglican Choir and St Carthage’s Cathedral Choir, from Lismore, join forces each year to present a service of Nine Lessons and Carols, annually alternating services between the Catholic Cathedral and St Andrew’s in Lismore, as well as taking it to areas such as Ballina and Mullumbimby.

The service always commences with the carol, Once in Royal David’s City, and then covers a range of traditional carols, as well as some more contemporary works.

It involves some congregational involvement in the singing.

Since 1982, each year King’s College has commissioned a special new work for inclusion in the service and this has resulted in some delectable new Christmas music.

Locally, the music is selected and the choirs prepared by music director and organist Warren Whitney. In 2009 Nine Lessons and Carols will be presented by the combined choirs at:

Friday 18 December, 7.30pm St Mary’s Anglican Church, Norton St, Ballina.

Sunday 20 December, 7.30pm St Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore.

Tuesday 22 December, 7.30pm St Martin’s Anglican Church, Mullumbimby.

Other Christmas services will be performed by St Andrew’s Choir:-

  • Sunday 6 December, 8.00pm, Carols by candlelight, Bexhill Church of the Good Shepherd.
  • Thursday 24 December 8.00pm carol service, Bexhill Church of the Good Shepherd.
  • Friday 25 December 7.30am Christmas service, St Andrew’s Anglican Church Lismore.

“We’d love you to join us at any of these services. Attendance is free and you will leave feeling relaxed and refreshed,” a spokeswoman for the organisers said.