Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Choirs Welcome Nativity With ‘Ceremony Of Carols’

Published November 29, 2007

On Sunday afternoon, Dec. 16, at 4 p.m., as the sun begins to set on the Advent season and the liturgical world turns toward the final preparations for the birth of the Savior, Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” will be presented by choirs from the Cathedral of Christ the King. Women from the Schola Nova, the Cathedral Ensemble and the Cathedral Choir will join their voices, accompanied by harpist Nella Rigel, in one of the most joyous musical offerings ever composed for the holiday season.

After a three-year stay in the United States, Benjamin Britten returned to wartime England in the spring of 1942 aboard a Swedish merchant ship. On the way the ship stopped at Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Britten came across a small book of medieval English poems in a bookshop. With this small book and working in a small cabin aboard the freighter, Britten was able to create a musical language for the narrative of Christmas that would become “A Ceremony of Carols.” The music contained in this work seems at once strange and far-off, yet familiar and personal—archaic in its language, yet modern in its tone.

The structure of the “Ceremony” is simple and intriguing: 10 brief sections, including a beautifully rhapsodic harp solo, are framed by a Procession and Recession, both identical plainchant settings of the traditional Latin chant antiphon for Christmas Day, Hodie Christus natus est. The eight choral sections combine texts by several medieval poets, and in one of the many delights of the piece, these texts are sung in medieval English dialects. The music is vigorous and gentle in turn, incorporating cradle songs, lovely lyrical melodies, intensely imaginative tone paintings, all culminating in a jolly and rambunctious finale.

Kevin Culver, choirmaster at the Cathedral, noted that “this set of carols perfectly evokes the scene and sense of the Nativity. … One can just imagine standing at the crib on that cold and dark night—and at the same time feeling the brilliant inner illumination that its true meaning brings. In today’s commercial culture it is all too easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the season. We hope that this presentation of ‘A Ceremony of Carols’ will help alter the pace and focus the mind on the season that is before us.”

The concert is open to the public and the entire diocesan family is invited to attend. A free will offering will be accepted at the door and no reservations are required. There is ample parking. The Cathedral of Christ the King is located at 2699 Peachtree Road, NE.


For further information, call the Cathedral concert line at (404) 233-2145, ext. 470.