Every Christmas communities around the UK gather together to sing Christmas carols. It is an age-old tradition, passed down through the generations. Love them or loathe them, there is no denying that a choir in full voice creates an immediate Christmas ambience.
Around London, amateur and professional groups perform concerts at various venues. Caroling services take place at most local churches and community halls and are usually advertised through flyers around the neighbourhood. Attending at a smaller congregation outside of the city centre will definitely give tourists a more intimate experience of Christmas celebrations in the UK but there is no denying that joining the masses at Trafalgar Square, the Royal Albert Hall or St. Paul’s Cathedral will make for a grand and memorable evening.
Many, if not all carol services collect money for charity so if the event is not ticketed, do take some coins along in case donations are being accepted.
Christmas Carols and the Tree at Trafalgar Square
Carol singing at Trafalgar Square takes place across three weeks this year, from 7th – 22nd December. Groups of up to fifteen singers can book a slot to sing for one hour on a platform by the Christmas tree. All bookings have now been taken and times allocated but the public can turn up to listen and sing along between 5-9pm every evening.
On Thursday 3rd December around 6pm, the Christmas tree in the square will be lit, following a tradition implemented in 1947 where the people of Norway gift a tree to the people of London. The custom began as a show of gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during the Second World War.
A Multitude of Carol Services at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey
There are plenty of Christmas events to attend at two of London’s best known religious centres. At St. Paul’s Cathedral, a selection of carols by Benjamin Britten will be performed on 12th December at 5pm and on 19th December at 1pm, a family service for carol singing will commence at 1pm and children in particular are invited to attend. On 23rd December and Christmas Eve, carols will be sung by the Cathedral Choir at 4pm and other religious services are open for the public to attend.
Most concerts at Westminster Abbey this year require tickets so it is advisable to book ahead. On 10th December there is a Candlelit Christmas Concert fundraiser to help children in Darfur with a group of celebrities in attendance. Then on 15th December the Abbey Choir will sing a selection of seasonal songs interspersed with readings from presenters of the Classic FM radio station. After Christmas the Abbey plays host to visiting choirs for further services.
Christmas Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall has as star-studded line up this Christmas and in fact the ‘Christmas Carols with the Stars’ on 10th December is already sold out. Other tickets that are still available include matinee and evening performances of Christmas songs on 12th December by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and on 13th December, energetic musician Jonathan Cohen will lead an afternoon of festive songs, including favourites Silent Night, Let It Snow, Frosty the Snowman, Good King Wenceslas and many more.
Christmas Singing Events at Local London Churches
Carol services take place all over England and anyone wanting to join with smaller and less touristy congregations over the Christmas period should look at churches near to their accommodations.
For example, Christ Church in Mayfair invites guests to join them for carol singing round the tree on 12th December (events for children under 10 years on this day) and by candlelight on 13th and 15th December.
Further north, the Highgate Choral Society is selling tickets for an evening of Christmas anthems at St. Michael’s Church on South Grove. The Highgate Choral Society and New London Children’s Choir will perform at 7.30pm on 12th December, with a collection for charity. Tickets are from £8 – £20 per person.