Radio 3 and BBC Singers launch carol competition for Christmas Day broadcast

- 28 August 2014

Radio 3 and the BBC Singers have launched a national Christmas carol composition competition, with six shortlisted entries to be performed on the Radio 3 Breakfast show in the run up to Christmas and the winning carol to be played on Christmas Day.

Compositions will set a specially commissioned poem by author Susan Hill (see below). The deadline for entries is 10 November.

Christmas come early: BBC Singers Photo: Sim Cannetty Clarke

Christmas jumpers: The BBC Singers
Photo: Sim Cannetty Clarke

Helen Garrison, formerly a producer on the Breakfast show and now with the BBC Singers, told CM that she wanted to do something different to acknowledge Radio 3 listeners’ love of both traditional and new carols.

‘We decided to make it a competition to write a piece no longer than four minutes for the BBC Singers. We are asking people to write an SATB carol, either a cappella or with piano accompaniment, and we’re targeting unpublished composers. We’re trying to encourage new composers to have a go.’

A judging panel &#8210 chaired by the choir’s chief conductor David Hill and including Judith Weir, recently appointed BBC Singers associate composer and Master of the Queen’s Music &#8210 will produce a shortlist of six carols to be performed live on Breakfast on 16 December and on 17 December in a live BBC Singers concert broadcast in Afternoon on 3. From 16 to 22 December, recordings of the carols will be played in Breakfast and In Tune, and the carols will be available to listen to on the Radio 3 website.

Radio 3 listeners will be asked to vote for their favourite, with the winner being announced on 23 December.

‘There’s no financial prize,’ said Garrison, ‘but there will be a lot of exposure. We have no idea how this is going to go: whether there will be a lot of interest or no one will take part.’

Radio 3 will cover a number of other choral events over the coming months, including a ‘One Day One Choir’ live event at Broadcasting House to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Peace (21 September); the BBC Singers’ 90th birthday celebrations with a special ‘Singers at Six’ concert (24 September), prior to the Singers’ role in the world premiere of Kevin Volans’ The Mountain That Left with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and soprano Pumeza Matshikiza at the Barbican; and coverage of the category finals and final of the Choir of the Year competition.

For full details of how to take part in the carol competition, click here.

By Susan Hill

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve
Twelve of the clock
Twelve of the clock.

The message was heard
On the wind, underground.
Through wires, in dreams

Heard by the fox slinking up to the hens
In the dark
And the wolf prowling near to the sheep,
By the dog as it snarled at
The cat as it sniffed for the mouse
In a hole in the wall of the house.

Heard by the owl with blood on its beak
And the shrew in the ditch.
Heard by the weasel, the ferret, the stoat,
The terrified rabbit
And the whale and the whaler above in his boat.

Christmas Eve
And twelve chimed the clock when the message was heard.
‘And can it be true ?’
Said the fox to the hen to the wolf to the sheep to the dog to the cat to the mouse to the owl to the shrew.
‘And can it be true ?’
They said to the weasel and ferret and stoat
And the whale to the man in his boat.
‘And can it be true ?’
‘Come and see for yourself.’
So they went.
The fox with the hen with the wolf with the sheep with the dog with the cat with the mouse with the owl with the weasel and ferret and stoat.
And the whale towed the boat.

Christmas Eve
Twelve of the o`clock
When they came to the stable and saw.
‘It is true ! It is true !’
And knelt down.


Richard Fawkes, Alex Stevens

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