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Preparing for an audience of millions at King's College Chapel


By Mike Scialom


The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell

For the first time in more than a decade, it was snowing for the recording of the world-famous Christmas Eve broadcast, Carols from King's.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell

“The filming went very well this year,” said King’s College’s label and media manager Benjamin Sheen. “It began at 2.30pm on Sunday – the service is an hour and 15 minutes. In the past there have been one or two occasions where we’ve had to stop because of an airplane going overhead, or some other noise distraction, but that didn’t happen this year.”

The event has become part of the fabric of the nation. Originally broadcast live on the radio from 1928 – including during the war years when the building was blacked out and the heating was switched off – it graduated to television in 1954, although it only became an annual fixture after the 1964 showing.

The Carols from King’s broadcast will this year be made available as a download immediately following the initial showing on BBC Two.

While UK licence-fee payers will be able to watch the service on BBC iPlayer for 30 days following the broadcast, the £9.99 video download will be available to everyone around the world. As with all of the recordings on the King’s College label, proceeds will be reinvested in the choir and music-making at King’s.

Meanwhile, the live radio showcase, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, is also a centrepiece of the festive calendar, with millions of listeners around the world.

This year, for the first time, King’s College will be operating a ticketing system to get into the chapel.

Anyone wishing to attend will need to be at the college at 7.30am on Christmas Eve with photo identification. They will be issued with a ticket for a specific seat at the service and invited to come back after 1.30pm to gain admission to the chapel. Only one ticket will be given per person and about 500 will be available.

“It’s difficult to expect people to stand all day in the rain and cold,” Mr Sheen said of the change, “so we’ve come up with a different system for the live radio broadcast.”

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is broadcast live on BBC Radio 4 on December 24 at 3pm. The service is also broadcast at 2pm on Radio 3 on Christmas Day, and at various times on the BBC World Service.

The pre-recorded service will be shown on BBC Two at 5.45pm on Christmas Eve. The 2017 download is now available for pre-order at kingscollegerecordings.com.



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