. . . is to listen live to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on BBC 4. Unfortunately your 3:00 PM is my 7:00 A.M. (and I'm a night owl), so I don't usually survive the live programme and have to tune into "Listen Again." As wonderful as listening to the service is, I always feel a bit frustrated not being able to see it. Fortunately, the BBC has produced this DVD of the 2000 service, which I watch every year just before midnight (PST) on Christmas eve.
Although the cameras, which focus first on the chorister singing "Once in Royal David's City" under the Reubens Altarpiece, are limited by the narrow space, they nevertheless make the most of their magnificent surroundings. We experience the light fading from the tall windows; the gradual darkening of the fan vaulting; and the warmth of the candles on the faces of the choristers as their glorious music reverberates through the late gothic Chapel.
The diction of the readers--in those splendid acoustics--is excellent so that it doesn't matter that I cannot manage to get the English subtitles working (perhaps a glitch that pertains to my disc only). The BBC has provided a libretto of the lyrics, but I would prefer to see them as subtitles while I am watching--in the case of subsequent verses or unfamiliar carols. There is a "carols only" option, but since the lessons are an integral part of the service, and they are read so beautifully, I can't imagine not wanting to hear and see this DVD in its entirety.
There is a very interesting archive presentation of the 1954 service, at which we see then director Boris Ord beating time with his finger rather than conducting. A fascinating conversation between Directors Emeriti Sir David Willcocks, Sir Philip Ledger, and present Director Stephen Cleobury, discussing the the choir under their respective tenures, completes the set.
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