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Cambridge college choir sings on rock band's Christmas song

Choristers of Jesus College, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Choristers of Jesus College, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The choristers of Jesus College have joined forces with award-winning prog rockers Big Big Train on a song full of seasonal cheer.

Big Big Train. Picture: Simon Hogg
Big Big Train. Picture: Simon Hogg

A recording and filming session for Merry Christmas was held earlier this year in Jesus College Chapel, which dates from 1157 and is the oldest college chapel in Cambridge.

The boy choristers, aged between nine and 13, come in halfway through the song, singing the refrain “Light to the world, love in our hearts” as the piece questions the commercialism of Christmas and disconnect between people leading ever-busier daily lives.

Richard Pinel, director of music at Jesus College, told the Cambridge Independent: “Prog rock is quite a niche thing, and Big Big Train have a loyal band of followers in that world – one of whom is Geoff Parks, the senior tutor of Jesus College. They’re very much his favourite band.

“He does a lot of proof-reading of their programmes and CD sleeves and has become friends with them, so he said to them a year or two ago if they ever needed a choir on any of their recordings, he knew where they could find a good one. “Then finally they took him up on it; earlier on this year they said they were doing a Christmas song – choirs and sleigh bells were part of it – and would we like to sing on the recording.”

Richard Pinel, director of music at Jesus College
Richard Pinel, director of music at Jesus College

The recording took place at the end of June. “They came along to us and recorded us on-site, singing along to the backing track on headphones,” recalled Richard. “We also recorded our part in the music video that day as well.”

As one might imagine, many of the boys came away from the experience wanting to be rock stars rather than choristers.

“Yes, exactly!” laughed Richard. “They loved it. Quite a few of them have taken part in recordings before, but always classical choral music – so even though they were on home turf, it was a very different set-up.

“It’s not normal for choirs to all wear headphones but obviously because we were singing to some pre-recorded material, everyone needed to hear what they were singing along with. It was quite exciting.”

The memorable video for the song, beautifully contrasting the cold outside with the warmth of Jesus College Chapel, was launched on YouTube on December 1. The single was officially released on December 8.

Merry Christmas is out now on 7-inch snow white vinyl with a gatefold cover and on digipack CD. It is also available for download and streaming. Let’s hope it makes the charts.



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