Updated, December 6, 2012 - Note that service dates and times are subject to change so check the Cathedral website or telephone ahead to be sure.The sound of Christmas carols sung by a cathedral choir is an important and familiar part of the holidays. In England the tradition of the cathedral choir, including trained English choirboys and poignant boy sopranos, is more well developed and refined than anywhere else in the world. Glance at the credits on favorite recordings of traditional carols in your own collection and you'll likely find one or two famous English Cathedral Choirs.
There is nothing quite like the sound of pure voices filling England's ancient Cathedrals all the way to their magnificent vaulted ceilings. And if you are lucky enough to be in England during Advent and Christmas, you could have a chance to hear Christmas carols, sung by an English Cathedral Choir in one of these magical settings.
How to Find The Best English Cathedral Choir Carol ConcertsCathedral websites often begin listing their holiday music schedules in September and October. Most plan a mixture of free and ticketed concerts. Some of the most famous - Handel's Messiah at St. Paul's Cathedral, Christmas Carols at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford - are free but tickets are snapped up early. Nevertheless, you can hear the famous Westminster Abbey Choir, or attend a popular carol service at York Minster simply by turning up early enough, on the day, to get a seat.
When making your plans, watch for concerts and services that feature the cathedral's own choir - these are the ensembles that have been gathered and trained for the best sound in that particular place.
Where to Find The Best English Cathedral Choir Holiday MusicThis list of England's most historic cathedrals includes 2012 Christmas music highlights. Follow the links for full Cathedral Choir schedules and ticket details.
- Bristol Cathedral, telephone +44 (0)117 926 4879. Carols by Candlelight with the Great Choir of Bristol Cathedral, Dec. 21, Service of Nine Lessons with Carols, December 23 and 24 at 3:30 p.m.
- Bury St. Edmunds Cathedral Carols by Candlelight in aid of the Children’s Society December 15 at 7p.m.; Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, December 23 at 6p.m.
- Kings College Chapel, Cambridge Though not a cathedral choir, the Kings College Chapel Choir of Cambridge University ranks high alongside the best cathedral emsembles in the world. Because of its live broadcast by the BBC, the Christmas Eve Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is not only famous but very popular.
- Canterbury Cathedral Two identical Cathedral Carol Services, on
- Dec. 23(unticketed) at 3 p.m. Seating is first come first serve.
- December 24 (tickets) at 3 p.m. doors open at 1:30 p.m. Tickets to this concert are almost always fully allocated before the end of October.
- Chester Cathedral The Cathedral Choir Concert with Special Guests, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m., tickets from the Cathedral Shop, +44 (0)1244 500959.
- Chicester Cathedral Cathedral Carol Services , Dec. 21 and 22 at 6p.m., Dec. 23 at 3p.m., unticketed, doors open one hour before service.
- Durham Cathedral Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, Dec.22, 7p.m. and Christmas Eve at 3 p.m.
- Ely Cathedral Carol concerts in one of England's most beautiful cathedrals -
- A Festival of Carols ,December 7, 7:30pm. Music and carols performed by the Ely Cathedral Choir and The Ely Imps, with seasonal readings and verse read by well-known local personalities. Proceeds will benefit a local charity and the Cathedral Trust.
- Hark the Herald, December 22, 7:30p.m. Traditional carol concert with the cathedral choirs and the City of Cambridge Brass Band.
- Exeter Cathedral Exeter Cathedral Choir Christm&as Concert, Dec, 15, 7:30p.m., ticketed event. Tickets from the Cathedral Shop, +44(0)1392 285983, or online.
- Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols, Gloucester Cathedtral Choristers with Harpist Eluned Pierce, free in the Lady Chapel on December 9 at 4p.m.
- Christmas Carols on the Hour, December 15, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 30 minute carol concerts every hour
- Christmas Carol Service, Dec. 23 and 24 at 6p.m.
- A Service of Carols and Candlelight, Dec. 7 and 8, 5:30 p.m., Concert of Carols by Candlelight Dec. 12 (ticketed), 7:30
- Christmas Eve Carol Service, Dec. 24, 4p.m.
- Benjamin Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols," featuring the cathedral boys choir and harpist Sioned Williams, Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.
- A Celebration of Christmas, featuring the Cathedral Choir, City of London Sinfonia and celebrity readers. Dec. 13, 6:30p.m, all welcome. One of the highlights of the London Christmas season. Arrive early to queue.
- Christmas Carol Service, Dec. 23, 24, 4p.m., all welcome.
- Carols by Candlelight, December 20 and 21 at 7p.m.
- Cathedral Carol Service, December 23, 6 p.m.
- Christmas Concert The Choir of Westminster Abbey (tickets required, available from the Barbican Box Office), Dec. 11, 7p.m., supported by John Lewis in aid of Westminster Abbey.
- Service of Lessons and Carols, December 23 at 6p.m. and Christmas Eve at 4 p.m. Tickets - which are free - are now required and are almost always fully allocated before the end of November. Enquire at the Abbey Chapter Office, +44 (0)207 222 5152.
- Candlelight Celebration Concert - Britten's Ceremony of Carols and Rutter's Dancing Day, The Cathedral Choristers, conducted by Dr Peter Nardone, with festive readings by the Dean. Tickets from Worcester Box Office Live +44 (0)1905 611427.
- Cathedral Carol Service, Dec. 22, 23, 6:30 p.m.
- Several concerts of York's Christmas Early Music Festival, Dec.6 to Dec.15 (2012).
- Christmas Carol Concerts. There are a variety of Christmas music events every year listed on the Minster's special Christmas web page. Tickets from the Minster Box Office
- Nine Lessons and Carols, Dec. 23 and 24 at 4 p.m.