Diocese of Portsmouth

    Cathedral choir to premiere new carol on BBC

    27 Nov. 2023

    PORTSMOUTH Cathedral Choir will give the TV premiere of the Church of England’s brand new Christmas single.

    Choristers will sing the new version of ‘The First Nowell’ during the live broadcast of Midnight Mass from Portsmouth Cathedral on BBC1 this Christmas Eve. They’ll be accompanied by musicians from HM Royal Marines during the service, which starts at 11:40pm. You can watch it on iPlayer here, shortly after broadcast.

    It will be the culmination of the Church of England’s national Christmas campaign ‘Follow the Star: Join the Song’, which will see this new version of the popular carol sung by thousands of choirs and congregations at carol services across the country.

    The choristers will themselves already have sung this version of ‘The First Nowell’ during identical carol services taking place on December 21, 22 and 23 in Portsmouth Cathedral. And they’ll sing it during a choir tour of Belgium earlier in December.

    The new melody has been written by renowned composer and former King’s Singer Bob Chilcott. A recording of the new carol by St Martin’s Voices has now been shared across digital platforms including Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music and YouTube. And more than 3,000 people have signed up to sing the carol so far, with performances planned at other cathedrals, including Chichester, Lincoln and Winchester.

    It’s just one of many ways in which our churches will be celebrating the joyful news of Jesus’s birth and sharing what that means for us all today. They’ll host a myriad of Christmas activities and services, including re-enactments of the Nativity, candlelit carol services and Christmas tree festivals.

    Amateur actors from Havant Passion Play will re-enact the Nativity story for visitors to Staunton Country Park in Havant ahead of Christmas. They’ll tell the story of Jesus’s birth – using farm animals and authentic costumes – three times a day on December 16, 17, 20 and 22.

    Visitors to Hart Plain Church will also experience a Live Nativity on December 9. Worshippers will dress up as wise men, shepherds and angels and tell the story with sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens and turkeys. There are two sessions that day, from 10am to 11:30am and from 12:30pm to 2pm.

    The Brighstone Christmas Tree Festival is now in its 27th year and will run from December 7-10 in 10 venues across West Wight, including St Mary’s Church, Brighstone, Mottistone Church and All Saints Church, Calbourne.

    It will feature more than 150 Christmas trees beautifully decorated by community groups. There’s also a nativity pageant at Brighstone Methodist Church, a night-time tractor ride, live musical performances and craft markets. Find out more on www.brighstonechristmastree.com.

    St Mary’s Church, Alverstoke, will host the Alverstoke Christmas Tree Festival from December 8-10. You can see 75 specially-decorated trees adorning the church, plus musical performances and refreshments.

    And the Christmas tree festival at St Cuthbert’s Church, Copnor, will happen this weekend – from December 1-3 – with decorated trees, music, refreshments and children’s activities.

    St Peter’s Church, Titchfield, will host a festival of angels from December 16-17. Angel figures are being made by different groups, organisations and individuals within the community. The two-day festival will culminate with a family-friendly carol service at 4pm on December 17.

    Our parishes and church schools are also being encouraged to make Christmas brighter for those in need by donating towards two separate appeals. They are collecting donations of toys and games, which will be given to needy children via Homestart in Portsmouth. And they are also donating gift vouchers to help the homeless, asylum seekers and vulnerable families buy their own Christmas gifts via the annual ‘Comfort and Joy’ appeal, run by Churches Homeless Action.

    Download resources, read more about these appeals, and discover what’s happening around our diocese at portsmouth.anglican.org/christmas

    Portsmouth Cathedral Choir singing as part of last year's carol services
    Members of our cathedral choir singing carols at one of last year's carol services
    Celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas at carol services across our diocese

    At the heart of the national Church of England’s Christmas campaign is a simple message inviting everyone to attend a local carol service. They can use the website achurchnearyou.com to discover thousands of services listed, with tags to help them find those with carols, mince pies, children’s services and more.

    Sheet music of the new version of the carol is also freely available for churches and schools to perform it. Proceeds from the single will be donated to the St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity, a UK-wide homelessness charity.

    The Church of England’s ‘Follow the Star’ campaign was first run in 2018. The 2023 theme highlights now singing can help draw people closer to God as they journey from Advent to Epiphany. Find out more on churchofengland.org/christmas.

    Portsmouth Cathedral

    St Thomas's Street Old Portsmouth, PO1 2HH

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