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London Carols & Services

There are few better ways to get into a festive mood than singing carols around the Christmas tree or in one of London's famous churches and cathedrals. To make sure you know when and where to go this Yule, read our feature on all the best carol singing, Christmas services and festive concerts in the capital - including the popular Midnight Masses at St Paul's and Westminster.

London Carols & Services
 

St Paul's Christmas Carols & Services

St Paul's Cathedral, EC4M 8AD
27th November 2011 - 27th December 2011
Few places are better for traditional Christmas services and carols than St Paul's, the spiritual home of Great Britain. To meet the increasing demand, this year St Paul's hosts a series of concerts throughout the month of December peaking with the excessively popular Midnight Mass  service and carol concert. St Christopher Wren's great dome, which dominates much of the City, fills with the sound of the Cathedral Choir for a large part of the month and the most special services and concerts are free and available to all. The cathedral formed the centrepiece of the reconstruction of London after the Great Fire of 1666 and miraculously went on to survive the Blitz in World War Two when most of the surrounding area was flattened by German bombing raids. It consequently acted as an inspirational symbol of British strength in the nation's darkest hour and is now an icon of resurrection and rebirth - a potent symbol of all that is associated with Christmas. The festive season kicks off with the dramatic Advent Procession on the last Sunday of November, with words and music focusing on the theme of life and death, heaven and hell, time and eternity, judgement and healing. 
 
Full programme
Sun 27 Nov & Mon 28 Nov, 6pm: The Advent Procession
Wed 7 Dec, 6.30pm: Handel's Messiah
Fri 9 Dec, 6.30pm: Sankta Lucia
Sat 10 Dec, 5pm: Ceremony of Carols by Benjamin Britten
Thu 15 Dec, 6.30pm: Celebration of Christmas
Sun 18 Dec, 6pm: La Natavite du Seigneur by Olicier Messiaen
Fri 23 Dec, 4pm: Christmas Carol Service
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 4pm: Christmas Carol Service
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 11.30pm: Midnight Mass
Sun 25 Dec, Christmas Day, 11am: Sung Eucharist
Sun 25 Dec, Christmas Day, 3.15pm: Festal Evensong
Mon 26 Dec, 5pm: Music and Readings for Christmas
Tues 27 Dec, 5pm: Music and Readings for Christmas
 
You are encouraged to arrive early to the afternoon of Christmas Eve and the Midnight Eucharist. Services and events are open to all, free and un-ticketed (except Messiah, for which you must apply for free tickets in advance). For more information please visit www.stpauls.co.uk.
 
 
More info: St Paul's Christmas Carols & Services Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Southwark Cathedral Carols & Services

Southwark Cathedral, London, SE1 9DA
1st December 2011 - 25th December 2011
Southwark Cathedral's popular candlelit carol services take place on the Sunday and Tuesday before Christmas but there are a host of other festive services open to the public throughout December. For the Cathedral Carol Service, the bulk of the singing is done by the boys, girls and men of the Cathedral Choir. The congregation will get a chance to join in and sing some of their favourites while the festive music will be interspersed with readings taken from St Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus. Be sure to arrive early because the annual Sunday evening event is hugely popular. Located besides the wonderfully odoriferous Borough Market, Southwark Cathedral has gained something of a cult status in recent years following a peculiar incident involving its bishop, Dr Tom Butler, in 2006. Following a Christmas drinks event at the Irish Embassy, the eccentric bishop was found, allegedly tipsy, in the back of a silver Mercedes, throwing children's toys out of the window. Rumours that he was filling his sack for his cathedral's Christmas tree were, of course, firmly denied - but it did get people talking about the church in the build up to Christmas, that's for sure.  
 
Full programme
Tue 1 Dec, 7pm: Mercy Ships Christmas Carol Service, 14.50
Sat 3 Dec, 1pm: Christmas Concert: Choir 18
Mon 5 Dec, 7.30pm: NSPCC Carol Concert, 25
Wed 7 Dec, 5.30pm: Better Bankside St Nicholas Day Service
Sat 10 Dec, 12noon: Finnish Church in London Christmas Recital
Wed 14 Dec, 7.15pm: Carol in the City: Marie Curie Cancer Care, 35
Sun 18 Dec, 6.30pm: Cathedral Carol Service
Wed 21 Dec, 7.30pm: The Spirit of Christmas, 12
Tue 20 Dec, 12.45pm: Cathedral Sing-in
Thu 22 Dec, 6.30pm: Cathedral Carol Service
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 4pm: Crib Service
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 11.30pm: Midnight Mass
Sun 25 Dec, Christmas Day, 11am: Choral Eucharist
 
 
More info: Southwark Cathedral Carols & Services Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Westminster Abbey Midnight Mass, Christmas Carols & Services

Westminster Abbey, SW1P 3PA
29th November - 25th December 2011
Pack inside one of London's most famous landmarks for an old-fashioned service to take you right through to Christmas Day. Westminster Abbey has been at the centre of royal and religious life in Britain since the time of William the Conqueror who was crowned here on Christmas Day 1066, following the successful Norman invasion of the British Isles. More recently, it was where Prince William and Catherine Middleton chose to get married (see our Follow in The Footsteps of The Royal Wedding feature for details of The Royal Wedding Service). It's easy to lose sight of what Christmas is all about in the sea of commercialisation, but sitting in the majestic history of the Abbey's nave will help remind you of the religious message. These awe-inspiring surroundings provide a striking backdrop for an evening of lessons and carols.  
 
There are services at the Abbey on:
Tue 29 Nov, 7pm: Handel Messiah (tickets required: 10-40)
Tue 13 Dec, 7pm: Christmas Concert supported by John Lewis (tickets required: 10-30)
Fri 23 Dec, 6pm: Service of Lessons & Carols (tickets required: Free)
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 12noon: Crib Service
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 4pm: Service of Lessons & Carols (tickets required: Free)
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 11.30pm: First Eucharist of Christmas & Blessing of the Crib
Sun 25 Dec, Christmas Day, 10.30am: Sung Eucharist 
 
Check www.westminster-abbey.org for full details and ticketing information.
 
 
More info: Westminster Abbey Midnight Mass, Christmas Carols & Services Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

St Martin-in-the-Fields Christmas Carols & Services

St Martin-in-the-Fields, WC2N 4JJ
26th November - 29th December 2011
St Martin-in-the-Fields is a perfect venue for any kind of service or concert - especially when candlelit and on a cold winter's night - but it is really quite extraordinary during the festive period when it comes into its own with a generous dollop of Christmas carols and services. Located almost in the shadow of the towering Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree, St Martin-in-the-Fields offers a seasonal glow throughout December with a range of services and carols that would get even Scrooge singing O Come, All Ye Faithful!  
 
Full programme
Sat 26 Nov, 7.30pm: Bach Christmas Oratorio
Thu 1 Dec, 7pm: VSO Christmas Concert by Candlelight - Carol Singing & the Lighting of the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square
Fri 2 Dec, 7.30pm: Norwegian Christmas Concert
Sat 3 Dec, 10am: Come and Sing Christmas Carols
Sat 3 Dec, 4pm: Family Christmas Carols
Sat 3 Dec, 7.30pm: Advent Carols by Candlelight
Thu 8 Dec, 7.30pm: The Glory of Christmas
Fri 9 Dec, 3pm: A Christmas Cracker - The NADFAS Christmas Concert
Fri 9 Dec, 5.30pm: Christmas Carols by Candlelight - the BackCare Christmas Concert
Fri 9 Dec, 8pm: Christmas Classics by Candlelight
Sat 10 Dec, 4pm: Mini Maestro Family Christmas by Candlelight
Sat 10 Dec, 7pm: Christmas Carols by Candlelight
Wed 14 Dec, 8pm: A Fabulations' Christmas
Thu 15 Dec, 7.30pm: The Spirit of Christmas by Candlelight
Fri 16 Dec, 7.30pm: Christmas Gala by Candlelight
Sat 17 Dec, 11.30am: Mini Maestro Family Tales
Sat 17 Dec, 4pm: Carols for Shoppers
Sat 17 Dec, 7.30pm: A Christmas Celebration
Mon 19 Dec, 7.30pm: The Joys of Christmas
Thu 22 Dec, 7.30pm: Handel Messiah by Candlelight
Fri 23 Dec, 4.30pm: Christmas with the English Chamber Choir
Fri 23 Dec, 7.30pm: Handel Messiah by Candlelight
Wed 28 Dec, 2.45pm: Come and Sing: World's Greatest Christmas Choruses
Thu 29 Dec, 7.30pm: The Complete Brandenburgs at Christmas
Fri 30 Dec, 7.45pm: Viennese Christmas
 
 
More info: St Martin-in-the-Fields Christmas Carols & Services Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree & Carols

Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DS
1st December 2011 - 6th January 2012
Since 1947, stately Trafalgar Square receives a majestic Norwegian Christmas Tree as an annual gift from the people of Oslo, thanking Britain for its support and friendship during World War Two. The enormous tree is a popular seasonal tourist attraction, particularly in the fortnight leading up to Christmas, when each evening from Monday 5 December to Thursday 22 December 2011, between 5pm and 9pm, a different choir gathers there to sing carols and raise money for a range of voluntary or charitable organisations. Passers-by are welcome to come and listen to the carols in the square, and even join in the festive cheer. Nelson's Column is decorated with Norwegian white lights and the tree is illuminated from noon until midnight until the Twelfth Night of Christmas in early January. The tree actually goes up in late November if you want to see it in all its naked evergreen glory. Then, on Thursday 1st December 2011, you can join the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields and sing carols around the tree from 6pm before the lighting of the tree at 6.30pm.
 
Timings
Thu 1 Dec, 6pm: Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields carol singing, followed by lighting of the tree at 6.30pm
Mon 5 Dec to Thu 22 Dec, 6pm-9pm: carol singing around the tree
 
 
More info: Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree & Carols Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Christmas Concerts at the Southbank Centre

Southbank Centre, London, SE1 8XX
10th December 2011 - 6th January 2012
There is a hefty schedule of festive fun at the Southbank Centre and on the South Bank over the Christmas period. On Friday 9th December, Harry Christophers and The Sixteen perform their annual Christmas concert of music celebrating the Christmas message at Queen Elizabeth Hall. The evening ends in The Front Room foyer with the ever-popular sequence of carols, when the audience (and other members of the public) is invited to sing with The Sixteen. On Saturday 10th December Handel's magnificent choral masterpiece, Messiah, is performed in full period costume in an evocative candlelit-style setting at Royal Festival Hall. Besides the strong musical programme (which also includes The Harmonics Clown Choir, The National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain and The Judith Owen and Harry Shearer Holiday Sing-along) there are plenty of festive events taking place on the South Bank, including the Cologne Christmas Market (18 Nov-24 Dec), Santa's Secret Village (until 24 Dec), the London Eyeskate (until 6 Jan), the Real Food Christmas Market (16-23 Dec) and the Christmas Chocolate Festival (9-11 Dec). For more information go to www.southbankcentre.co.uk.
 
 
More info: Christmas concerts at the Southbank Centre Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services[
 

Christmas Carols & Services at Temple Church

Temple Church, EC4Y 7HL
28th November - 25th December 2011
If the renowned author Dan Brown staggered through the vaulted archway of any grand London place of worship to sing carols this Christmas, it would surely be the Temple Church, between Fleet Street and the Thames. The Temple Church was built by the Knights Templar - made famous by Brown's The Da Vinci Code - and was used in the filming of the subsequent movie, starring Tom Hanks as the forty-year-old Professor Robert Langdon with the arrestingly deep voice, and the strong, carefree smile of a collegiate athlete (who had a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces). Jokes (and best-selling literary assassins) aside, the Temple Church's range of carol services are a true delight and will certainly get you in the mood for Christmas celebrations. Located in a picturesque courtyard between the Middle and Inner Temples, the famously round church is a popular spot for carol singing so be sure to arrive in good time - not just so you can amble around the nearby squares and gardens, but so you can grab a seat in the nave with a good view of the choir. For more information go to www.templechurch.com and for bookings go to www.templemusic.org.
 
Full programme
Mon 28 Nov, 6pm: Advent Carol Service
Thu 1 Dec, 6.45pm: Christmas Concert
Thu 8 Dec, 12noon-8pm: Christmas Fair, 5, Middle Temple Hall
Mon 12 Dec, 6pm: Christmas Carol Service, followed by drinks in the Round Church
Tue 13 Dec, 1.15pm-1.45pm: Christmas Carol Sing-along
Wed 14 Dec, 6pm: A Christmas Celebration, followed by drinks in the Round Church
Fri 16 Dec, 1.10pm: Lunchtime Carols
Sun 18 Dec, 11.15am: Carol Service, followed by Christmas lunch in both Inns (tickets required)
Sun 18 Dec, 3pm: Children's Nativity Play
Sun 18 Dec, 6pm: Christmas Carol Service
Sat 24 Dec, Christmas Eve, 11.15pm: Midnight Choral Communion Service
Sun 25 Dec, Christmas Day, 11.15am: Choral Mattins
 
 
More info: Christmas Carols & Services at Temple Church Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Carols by Candlelight

Royal Albert Hall, London, SW7 2AP
17th-24th December 2011
The climax of the Royal Albert Hall's Christmas carols programme is this dimly lit traditional Christmas celebration, Carols by Candlelight, mixing sing-a-long carols with readings from Dickens (A Christmas Carol) and the Bible (The Birth of the Infant Jesus). The name is a bit of a cheat - there are no actual candles lighting the hall, just a 'candle-lit style setting' - but the performers are all in eighteenth century costume, and the hall splendidly decorated to create a thoroughly festive atmosphere. Expect all the Christmas classics from the Christmas sequence from Handel's Messiah to a rousing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Check www.royalalberthall.com for full details.
 
Performances:
Sat 17 Dec - 8pm
Sun 18 Dec - 8pm
Fri 23 Dec - 7.30pm
Sat 24 Dec - 2.30pm & 7pm
 
The Royal Albert Hall also hosts a flurry of other Christmas concerts, including:
 
Mon 12 Dec, 7.30pm - Royal Choral Society Christmas Carols
Tue 13 Dec, 7.30pm - Christmas Classics with Lesley Garrett
Wed 14 Dec, 7.30pm - The BT Christmas Concert
Thu 15 Dec, 2.30pm - Christmas Carol Singalong
Thu 15 Dec, 7.30pm - Messiah
Fri 16 Dec, 7.30pm - Messiah
Sat 17 Dec, 1.30pm - Christmas Carol Singalong
Sat 17 Dec, 4.45pm - Christmas Carol Singalong
Sun 18 Dec, 1.30pm - White Christmas
Sun 18 Dec, 4.45pm - White Christmas
Mon 19 Dec, 7.30pm - Classic Carols
Tue 20 Dec, 2.30pm - Anton Du Beke's Christmas Cracker
Tue 20 Dec, 7.30pm - King's College Choir
Wed 21 Dec, 2.30pm - Christmas Carol Singalong
Thu 22 Dec, 2.30pm - White Christmas
Thu 22 Dec, 2.30pm - Christmas Carol Singalong
Thu 22 Dec, 7.30pm - The Glory of Christmas
Fri 23 Dec, 2.30pm - Anton Du Beke's Christmas Cracker
 
 
More info: Carols by Candlelight Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Canary Wharf Carols & Candles Service

East Wintergarden, London, E14 5AB
13th December 2011
Members of the public are invited to join a choir made up of Canary Wharf tenants - including Barclays Capital, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse and KPMG - for the annual candlelit carol service at the East Wintergarden. It's the highlight of the Canary Wharf festive season - which also includes the popular ice rink - and there are no expenses spared with a post-service supply of mince pies and mulled wine on offer following the traditional seasonal song sing-along. This year the Carols & Candles Service is supporting Barnardo's and international charity Five Talents who help to fight poverty by supporting small businesses. It's free to attend but you do need to register for tickets, maximum four per person, by emailing carolsandcandles@canarywharf.com.
 
 
More info: Canary Wharf Carols & Candles Service Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube
London Carols & Services
 

Midnight Mass at St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral, EC4M 8AD
Saturday 24th December 2011
Sir Christopher Wren's magnificent St Paul's Cathedral, viewed by many as the spiritual home of Great Britain, is a wonderful place to be on the night before Christmas when the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral is joined by Barbican Brass to mark the first Eucharist of Christmas. This is one of many Christmas celebrations held at the cathedral throughout December. Demand is so great that St Paul's puts on a series of special events but the high point has to be the Midnight Mass service. The cathedral's famous dome, which peaks over the top of London's skyline from miles around, fills with the soaring sounds of the Cathedral Choir. In candlelit, majestic surroundings in the middle of the city, this is the perfect place to usher in Christmas Day before wrapping up warm and making your way home through the magically deserted streets. All you need is a fresh coating of snow to settle...
 
 
More info: Midnight Mass at St Paul's Cathedral Map, Prices, Opening Times and Nearest Tube

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