Carols from King's: The Stories of our Favourite Carols from King's College by Alexandra Coghlan
|Carols from King's: The Stories of our Favourite Carols from King's College by Alexandra Coghlan|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: Carols from King's is an annual appointment every year for some - the one thing that makes you truly realise that Christmas has arrived, and an opportunity to hear some traditional Christmas music sung by one of the best choirs in the country. Music journalist Alexandra Coghlan examines the tradition, the College, and the Carols that make up such a key part of many of our Christmas experiences.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: September 2016|
|Publisher: BBC Books|
|External links: Author's website|
The exquisite sound of a lone chorister singing Once in Royal David's City amid the chapel of King's College, Cambridge, marks the start of the Christmas festivities for millions of people round the globe. Broadcast at 3pm on Chrismas Eve, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols provides a precious moment of tranquility amongst the bustle of the festive season. Here author Alexandra Coghlan takes the reader on a journey through the fascinating history of carols, from the very first - sung by the angels to the shepherds at Bethlehem - to anecdotes from contemporary King's choristers, and shows them how carols have evolved from pagan songs to become one of our nation's most sacred treasures. Accompanied by lyrics and music and compiled in conjunction with Radio 4 and King's College Chapel, Carols from King's is the official companion for fans of Christmas and carols alike.
I love a good carol. It may surprise those who've read one of my previous reviews where I've made mention of the fact that I'm somewhat of an atheist, but I love the tradition and ceremony of a good CofE Christmas. I was a chorister from the age of 5 to 16, so as a result have a fairly good knowledge and appreciation for Christmas carols, given that the period from Advent up until Christmas morning was the busiest time of the year as a young choirboy. I still sing, but these days the extent of my Christmas carols normally extends to perhaps one carol service near Christmas time, and the annual appointment with Carols from King's on Christmas Eve.
Author Alexandra Coghlan is a classical music journalist, and that really shines through in this book. Not only does she come into the book with an immense amount of knowledge, but a huge amount of enthusiasm and love for her subject matter. A history of the carol takes up a good two thirds of this slim volume - and whilst it's a brief overview, it's nonetheless peppered with interesting facts and intriguing anecdotes that give a fascinating historical context to these songs. Specific songs are broken down in ways that show Coghlan's musical background too - offering insights to me on songs that I must have sung tens of thousands of times over the years. Never too detailed to confuse those without musical knowledge, but never too simple either, they're perfectly pitched and add huge amounts to this volume.
The last third, with a focus on Kings and its tradition of carols, is filled with information on the chapel and its history with the carols, a particular focus falling on David Willocks - a man without whom it's doubtful many carols would be as special and memorable as they are today. Leading the reader into the carols of today, it's a fitting end to a really lovely and rather special little book - an ideal stocking filler for those with a love for Carols and for the service at Kings every year. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
For further reading, I'd recommend The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell - another lovely little book that explores the history of bookshops whilst also exploring wonderful bookshops all around the world.
You can read more book reviews or buy Carols from King's: The Stories of our Favourite Carols from King's College by Alexandra Coghlan at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Carols from King's: The Stories of our Favourite Carols from King's College by Alexandra Coghlan at Amazon.com.
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