How did you get on with this year’s Christmas Quiz? Some questions trickier than others… We were delighted to receive hundreds of entries from people in over 20 countries around the world. Thank you for playing; we hope it brought some festive cheer in the run-up to Christmas. A particular well done to anyone who got full marks, and a special mention goes to Ruth Barker whose name was picked out of the hat, winning a signed copy of all ten carols. The answers are included below, and there’s a playlist of the ten answers so you can sing along while you wrap your presents and put the final touches to any festive plans. We wish you all a very merry Christmas!
Carol 1: Angels’ Carol
Originally commissioned as a duet, to be sung by the two prizewinners in a Choirboy and Choirgirl of the Year competition in England in 1987, this was later reworked by John for mixed-voice choir, in which version it is performed here:
Carol 2: Dormi Jesu
The Latin text of this lullaby has been known and admired for centuries: it was translated into English by Coleridge, and there are musical settings by Rubbra and by Webern (one of the very few twelve-note carols in existence). The present setting was written at the invitation of Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge, for the King’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in 1999.
Carol 3: Rise up, shepherd, and follow
This setting captures the essential simplicity of this Christmas spiritual, with a wordless chorus backing a solo baritone.
Carol 4: Christmas Lullaby
This was one of three carols commissioned by The Bach Choir in 1989 to celebrate the 70th birthday of their conductor, Sir David Willcocks.
Carol 5: Shepherd’s Pipe Carol
Along with the Nativity carol, this was John’s earliest published composition. It dates from 1965, and was specially written for inclusion in his first carol recording.
Carol 6: All bells in paradise
Unlike other Cambridge collegiate choirs, which are on vacation in mid-December, King’s College Choir does sing at Christmas, and many carols have been composed for its renowned Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols held each Christmas Eve. All bells in paradise was written for the 2012 Festival, at the invitation of Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s. For this, the third carol I have written for them, I turned to a carol text more or less contemporary with King’s Chapel itself, All bells in paradise I heard them ring – this provided the first line of what was otherwise my own new text.
Carol 7: What Sweeter Music
Like Dormi, Jesu, this was written for the King’s College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, in 1987. Robert Herrick’s text (part of a New Year’s Day masque set to music by William Lawes) seems to sum up the whole ethos of the carol genre as many composers and poets have understood it.
Carol 8: Star Carol
For many years, the annual Christmas concert given by The Bach Choir in London’s Royal Albert Hall has been a seasonal highlight, not least because for part of the concert the children of the audience are invited to join the choir onstage to sing carols. In 1971 David Willcocks, as conductor of The Bach Choir, asked John to write a new carol with a refrain simple enough to be taught to the children onstage and immediately performed by them, together with the adults. Star carol was the response.
Carol 9: Suzi’s Carol
Suzi Digby, choral conductor extraordinaire, has been a major force for good in the choral world (and beyond) for a number of years, and is a personal friend. Among her many projects – some involving her fabulous chamber choir ORA – she has commissioned a wealth of new choral music from a remarkable cross-section of composers. I feel privileged to have been invited in 2017 to be one of them, and at her suggestion I decided to write a carol, with her expert choir in mind. I always return to early English carol texts with pleasure, but in choosing A babe is born all of a may I preferred to avoid such a lengthy title, so Suzi’s Carol it is, in recognition of her huge contribution to the world of choral music.
Carol 10: Carol of the Magi
The text of Carol of the Magi was nourished by two strangely converging influences: T. S. Eliot’s Journey of the Magi, and the traditional folk belief in Mediterranean countries that in the face of every child we see the face of Christ.