Last-minute swap needed as BBC film Carols from King’s in Cambridge after two test positive for Covid-19
Preparations for filming the famous Carols from King’s were hit after two of those due to take part tested positive for Covid-19.
The choral scholars affected, who are from the same household, are adult members of the choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
They were among 14 who had been due to join 16 boy choristers for the festive spectacle, which is broadcast on BBC Two on Christmas Eve.
It meant some of these adult members of the lower voice choir had to go into self-isolation.
With filming due to take place, there was a late call-up for six of The King’s Singers, an internationally renowned vocal group founded by former choral scholars from the University of Cambridge college.
They stepped in at 48 hours’ notice and sang with the young choristers for the first time only minutes before filming began in King’s College Chapel for what is an institution of Christmas television for so many viewers.
The two groups stayed at a safe distance for the duration of the concert, overseen for the second time by Daniel Hyde, who took up the post of director of music in October 2019.
For the first time in its history, the concert took place with no congregation.
The Rev Dr Stephen Cherry, dean of King’s College, said: “We are all hugely grateful to The King’s Singers for stepping up at the last minute.
“They have shown tremendous goodwill and consummate professionalism. Our young choristers also responded very positively and with real maturity to the several challenges faced in reimagining the programme, and together they have enabled us to offer a wonderful Christmas service at extraordinarily short notice.
“King’s College Choir has been preparing for our Christmas broadcasts for months while following strict safety protocols, so it was particularly disappointing that the choral scholars couldn’t be with us for the filming.
“To have had one of the households hit by the virus at the last moment was incredibly unfortunate.
“In a year when so many will be spending Christmas in a way unlike any other in living memory, we were determined to do whatever we could to offer a meaningful and beautiful Christmas service.
“We’re delighted with the result of the remarkable efforts of so many people at King’s and at the BBC, and we look forward to sharing Carols from King’s with viewers across the country.”
Thankfully, the two choral scholars who had positive test results have suffered only mild symptoms. Together with the choral scholars, who are in precautionary self-isolation, they have received welfare and pastoral support from King’s College.
Alan Holland, executive producer, for the BBC, said: “Carols from King’s is a cornerstone of the BBC’s Christmas programming and we are delighted that The King’s Singers were able to join us.
“That significant changes were successfully made at such short notice is testament to the dedication and determination of the musicians and the teams at King’s College and the BBC.”
The King’s Singers were formed in 1968 when six recent choral scholars from King’s College gave a concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. The group was made up of two counter-tenors, a tenor, two baritones and a bass - a formation maintained ever since.
The filming for the programme was completed on Sunday evening and the show will be broadcast in the UK on BBC Two at 5.30pm on Christmas Eve.
An order of service will be available to download from King’s College from Friday December 18 for those wishing to follow it alongside the broadcast.
Carols from King’s dates back to 1954 and is separate from that other King’s College institution, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, a service that takes place on Christmas Eve and which is broadcast on radio around the world.