How did you get on with this year’s Christmas Quiz? Some questions trickier than others… 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 M.B. from The Netherlands whose name was picked out of the hat, by John, 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: I wish you Christmas
John Rutter wrote this Christmas song (one of his few secular seasonal songs) for the RPO Christmas Celebration concert in 2006.
Carol 2: Mary’s Lullaby
At the time this was written, in 1978, John Rutter was Director of Music at Clare College, Cambridge. The choir was recording a Christmas television programme which, at the run-through the day before filming, was discovered to be almost three minutes short. Mary’s Lullaby was written overnight to fill the gap.
Carol 3: The Wild Wood Carol
This carol is extracted from John Rutter’s musical version of Kenneth Grahame’s children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, written for The King’s Singers in 1981. The text reflects on the role of the animals in the Christmas story.
Carol 4: 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 also musical settings by Rubbra and by Webern.
This setting was written at the invitation of Stephen Cleobury, Director of Music at King’s College, Cambridge, for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols in 1999.
Carol 5: Nativity Carol
Written in 1963, this was one of John’s earliest pieces. It was published in 1967 with organ accompaniment, and later scored for strings by the composer.
Carol 6: Ave Maria
The words of the Ave Maria are those of the Angel Gabriel in St Luke’s gospel as he brings Mary the news that she will be the mother of Christ, and there are innumerable musical settings. This one was written by John in 2006.
Carol 7: Joseph’s Carol
Dedicated to the Oxford Covid-19 Vaccine Team, Joseph’s Carol sets words by the composer that recount the Christmas story from the perspective of Joseph: a weary traveller on his way to Bethlehem with Mary; his doubts and fears turning to awe and wonder as he hears angel voices foretelling the miracle to come.
The carol was premiered in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre, performed by Sir Bryn Terfel, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra and the Choir of Merton College.
Carol 8: Esta Noche
The infectious dance-like spirit of this anonymous folk-carol has made it a favourite both in Spain and the New World: versions have been found in Chile, Puerto Rico and Peru. This version was written for the RPO Christmas Celebration concert in 2006.
Carol 9: Star Carol
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 children onstage, at the annual Bach Choir Christmas concert in the Royal Albert Hall, and immediately performed by them, together with the adults. Star Carol was the response.
Carol 10: What sweeter music
This tender setting of the traditional carol text was written for King’s College Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, in 1987, and has become one of John Rutter’s most cherished Christmas anthems.