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Cecilia McDowall, composer of the Nine Lessons and Carols festival’s new carol.

One of the most deeply rooted Christmas traditions in England is the festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which has been held annually since 1918 on Christmas Eve at 3 p.m. British time in the chapel of King’s College, Cambridge. The service includes readings from the Bible and carols, and the service always opens with the singing of Once in Royal David’s City, a carol from 1848. But every year since 1982 a new one has been commissioned from a leading composer (in 1984 Peter Maxwell Davies was commissioned, in 1990 Arvo Pärt, in 1997 Thomas Adès and in 2004 John Tavener, for example). This time the commission has gone to the English composer Cecilia McDowall (London, 1951), internationally renowned for her choral work and winner of the 2014 British Composer Award for her work Night Flight.

The title of the carol that will be broadcast today on BBC4 is There Is No Rose, the lyrics of which are based on a 15th century English hymn that tells the story of the birth of Christ.

© Photo downloaded from Cecilia McDowall’s website.