Lessons and Carols Stir Chapel


The College community received a special holiday season treat on Sunday, December 11 as acclaimed soprano Christine Brewer participated in this year’s annual Service of Lessons and Carols for Christmas in the Trinity Chapel. Brewer, who has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchestras, performed in two shows along with the Chapel Singers, the Concert Choir, and the Trinity College Guild of Carrillonneurs and Change Ringers. The singers were accompanied by Professor of Music Gerald Moshell and College Organist and Director of Chapel Music John Rose. The carillonneurs and change ringers are under the direction of College Carillonneur Daniel K. Kehoe ’78. One highlight of each performance was President Jones accompanying Brewer on the organ as she sang O Holy Night.

“The Service of Lessons and Carols for Christmas, a longstanding tradition at Trinity College, serves many purposes,” explains College Chaplain Dan Heischman. “It gives students—those who are a part of the service and those who attend—an opportunity to pause and celebrate the spirit and message of Christmas before launching into exams and heading for home.” 

Brewer’s appearances are marked with her own unique timbre, considered at once warm and brilliant. Her repertoire includes the works of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Verdi, Strauss, Mahler, Janáček, and Britten and she regularly performs with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. On the opera stage, she has been seen in a variety of roles, including the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos at the Metropolitan Opera, Opera de Lyon, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Santa Fe Opera, and the English National Opera. Ms. Brewer joined Plácido Domingo in a concert to celebrate the re-opening of Covent Garden and she has performed another signature role, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, to wide critical acclaim. 


“For many in the Greater Hartford community, the event serves as one of the ways in which they begin their observance of the Christmas season,” notes Heischman. “This year, for the music lover, it was an exceptional treat, given how fortunate we were to have Christine Brewer with us. Her talent, warmth, and accessibility brought great depth and good cheer to our festivities.”

The first service of this kind in modern times was held in Truro, England in 1880. It was arranged from ancient sources by Edward White Benson, bishop of Truro and later Archbishop of Canterbury. Before 1878 it had been the practice of the cathedral choir to sing carols from house to house in the city; in 1878 the custom of singing carols in the church on Christmas Eve at 10 o’clock was begun. In 1880 a pamphlet was issued giving the order of service and the inauguration of the Festival of the Nine Lessons and Carols.  

The rite was revived by Dr. E. Milner-White, who was appointed Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, in 1918. At King’s, the service continues to have immense popularity both in Britain and wherever it is broadcast or its recordings heard.  

The Service of Lessons and Carols was begun at Trinity College in 1958. Essentially, it follows the Cambridge tradition. Readers are chosen from various groups within the wider College community and the musical portions of the service are led by the Chapel Singers and the Concert Choir.


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