This DVD offers for the first time ever a sumptuous surround-sound experience of the college's annual Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, filmed in December 2000. Stephen Cleobury's choice of music for the service struck... more » a careful balance between carols traditional and modern, rare and popular. This DVD release also includes a fascinating and rare black and white film of the 1954 service, effortlessly directed by Boris Ord. This DVD captures the magnificence of two carol services, almost fifty years apart, with stunning filming, incredible surround sound and fascinating archive extras and interviews.« less
Opus Arte + Opus Dei = Heavenly Christmas harmony.
quia-nihil-sum | Inverness,Scotland. | 10/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm a wee bit out of season reviewing this DVD in September,but it was amongst a batch of classical items that my local retailer was offering at seriously reduced prices.Needless to say my wallet was out faster than you could say "Silent night",and I hastily hauled it back to my Highland hideout.
Now,I've been a regular listener to the "Festival of nine lessons and carols" for many years now,and it's been my wont to spend Christmas Day wandering the snowy hills and glens near my home.Come 3pm I make quite sure to tune my portable radio (a very good Roberts "R972" if you are in the market for excellent broadcast sound on the move !) into the BBC to catch the solo (must surely rank as one of the most nerve-wracking program openings of all time !) treble's first ethereal annunciation of "Once in royal David's city".It always gives me Goosebumps and strangely this lone voice from one of England's greatest Christian chapels is quite simply the catalyst "sine qua non" that makes you (wherever in the world you may be ) feel that Christmas Day is truly upon you,and it's impossible to envisage a future festive season from which this absolute institution will be absent.Until now,I've just had to use my imagination to actually visualise the service as it takes place in the incomparably beautiful King's College Chapel,Cambridge.Therefore,what an absolute treat to sit back and watch this beautifully presented disc,and finally see the choir and clergy stand ready for the procession in front of the glorious painting,"Adoration of the Magi" by Rubens.It's almost worth while pressing "pause" right there and then and just admiring that gorgeous still image for about half an hour or so ! In fact,you might just wear out that pause button because there is a host of sumptuous images to come and despite the fairly restricted camera angles available due to the unusually long oblong shape of the chapel,we get some stunning shots of the windows and plenty of that near-miraculous "fan-vaulted" roof that apart from defying gravity almost defies belief that it was actually built (in 3 short years from 1512-15) by human hands. Forgive me if I leave the technical and scholarly analysis of the actual singing (glorious,in my humble opinion)to other reviewers with rather more of a musical education than I've experienced,and just tell you that I found the whole viewing of this year 2000 service a most moving and marvellous experience,despite the fact that I was watching it almost exactly three months out of season.Amongst several highlights for me was the lovely rendition of "In the bleak mid-winter".Naturally it's the Rossetti poem we all know and love,but perhaps the arrangement by Harold Darke (the choir's conductor during the war years) is not the usual one that you,or I are most familiar with.Nevertheless,it's quite gorgeous and I really thought the choir sung as a completely integrated body in this particular carol.Also particularly affecting was the touching rendition of the anonymous (set to music by B.Chilcott) "Shepherd's Carol".There is that lovely line in the second verse "Silence more lovely than music" ,which as a sentiment is completely disproved by the beautifully floated delivery from our talented choristers !There is a menu option that allows you to cut out all the readings and spoken parts and just listen to the music in sequence,but useful as this is,I think it's a shame to so drastically edit the service as broadcast,and besides the delivery of the various college and city representatives are attractively earnest and sincere.One big surprise was the appearance of the renowned singer Robert Tear (himself a former choral scholar at King's and now Honorary Fellow) who read (most effectively) a poem by William Drummond.The two superb bonus items on this DVD are the fascinating "time-capsule", first ever TV broadcast of the service from 1954 when Boris Ord was Director of music.The sound is understandably a bit "care-worn" but when the quality of performance is as good as this it doesn't really matter,and your ears soon adjust to the audio soundworld of nearly half a century ago.Amazing to see the iron control that Ord has over the choir and this seems to be a hypnotic rather than physical influence on his part.The second bonus is a most civilised and charmingly courteous conversation between the three most recent Directors of Music that takes place in the studious and scholarly atmosphere of a room overlooking the college quad.The legendary Sir David Willcocks and the only slightly less legendary Sir Philip Ledger and Stephen Cleobury (Director of the 2000 service) gently reminisce about their respective periods in charge of the choir.I found it fascinating to listen in on their shared anecdotes and it really gave me some good insights on the pleasures,pitfalls and profound pride that is involved in running such a national choral treasure. I can wholeheartedly recommend and endorse this Christmas "cracker" of a DVD to you,and quite honestly,if it has the effect of putting me in the festive mood on September the 25th;then just imagine what it will do for you on the day itself !"
Instant Christmas Classic ...
Richard H. Deming | Connecticut | 12/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I found Carols From King's while browsing in NYC. It was a featured selection so that I could put on the headphones and check it out. Wow! I'm not that impulsive but it was an immediate buy. I'm also not a fan of chorus/choir music - at all. This is .... well if God himself wanted proof of why we are worthy of anything .. I'd put this DVD on.I normally wouldn't even write a review. Someone has done a fine job of that but I noticed two things - the gentleman didn't have surround sound and also was involved in the broadcast of this in some way in the past. So, I thought that some people might be hesitant to purchase based on those issues. Please, if you want to hear something glorious do yourself a favor and purchase this DVD! Somehow they not only captured the terrific voices, the grand organ but they also were able to intelligently capture the reverberations off of the stone walls. You will believe that you have a ticket to the actual performance.Caveats: The audio options are DTS 5.1 recording and 2.0 PCM Stereo. The 2.0 stereo is quite good but the DTS option is the only way to fly. So if you don't have DTS decoding you might want to pass - until you get it. (...) Naxos of America is distributing this in the U.S. (originally a BBC/Opus Arte production). (...) This is a pity as the time to market this title was two months ago. I've also seen this listed as Chorus from King's (1954). This does this DVD a disservice as it would appear to be just some old recording made into a DVD. (...)"
A Real Winner From One of the World's Great Choirs
nicholasnash | White Bear Lake, MN USA | 12/11/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD has three separate parts - the Christmas program televised in the UK in 2000, made up of carols and Christmas readings; a conversation among the three living Directors of Music at King's - Sir David Willcocks, Sir Philip Ledger, and the current incumbent, Stephen Cleobury; and what must have been the first of such carol programs recorded in the chapel in 1954.The choir is best known for its annual radio broadcast of "A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" which began in 1929 and has been heard on public radio stations in the USA since 1979. Quite frequently, BBC Television have recorded a holiday program which is like Nine Lessons and Carols but is not "it." "It" is the live radio broadcast. Full stop. This recording is of the television program.The 1954 recording will be of interest to King's fanatics and choral directors who will enjoy the leisurely tempi of Boris Ord, the director of music in that day. And the conversation will be of interest mainly to the hardiest fans of King's and its choir and musical leadership.The glory of this DVD is the carol service with readings from the recorded-for-television program in 2000 which is given a sumptuous visual treatment with audio to match, and a wide ranging array of Christmas music from the very well known to the ought-to-be-very well known. I have never seen the chapel and choir shown as magnificently as it is here. This DVD is the very closest thing to being in the chapel as the afternoon light fades to blackness, and this choir of sixteen boys and fourteen men, carries your spirit into places you can only imagine.(I produced the original Christmas Eve radio broadcast in the USA over two decades ago, so I have been to the chapel and heard the choir often over the last twenty-five years. This is a "must have" recording, and if you don't have a DVD player, then this recording alone should be the strongest encouragement to do so.)Surround sound is included, and based on a couple of hearings, I guess I'm going to have to invest in that new technology to hear the remarkable acoustic of King's Chapel even more wonderfully than it already is in stereo.[Update as of 2/26/02: A "[...] colleague" encouraged me to upgrade to surround sound, and needing no more excuse than that, I have, and can report that the result produces in me the same emotional effect that being in the chapel for Evensong does. It just takes my breath away.] A remarkable accomplishment in terms of program, images, and sound. In a word, "awesome," but in the original sense of that word."
Excellent music and sound, but a few shortcomings.
Mark Marshall | Corpus Christi, Texas | 01/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What can one say? -- this is the Choir of King's College Cambridge performing their renowned Christmas offering, Nine Lessons and Carols.
But avid listeners to the Christmas Eve radio broadcast of Nine Lessons and Carols may be disappointed on a few counts. Much of the 2000 service on the DVD comes across more like a performance made for BBC television (which I think it is) than as a service. As such, it at times lacks the emotion of the live radio broadcast.
Poems and such are often read, replacing some of the traditional scripture readings. I find that a travesty. And, unlike the radio broadcast, we aren't treated to a boy chorister reading the first scripture lesson. Not having a very British, very earnest boyish reading of the first scripture lesson takes away an important part of the Nine Lessons experience. You might as well have Kid Rock sing the first verse of Once in Royal David's City.
The camera work is often mechanical focusing on the same choristers over and over again, while neglecting others.
And it ends badly with the ending organ voluntary truncated.
The music is still wonderful, of course, with excellent sound, rising above the aforementioned shortcomings. Those with good surround sound especially rave about the sound quality. My speakers and surround sound are both a bit dated, but I was still impressed myself.
And, a nice touch, the chapel slowly darkens during the performance as it does on Christmas Eve.
A special historic treat on the DVD is the first ever television recording of the Nine Lessons service from 1954. Of course, the sound and picture are not up to 21st Century standards. But this recording retains much of the gravity, emotion, and realness of the service that today's television productions can squeeze out. The historic nature of this recording alone makes this DVD worthwhile.
The conversation between the last three directors of the King's College Choir is also of interest to any fan of the choir.
Although the 2000 production should stick more closely to the wonderful traditional Christmas Eve service, this is still an excellent DVD. I played it for hours and hours as soon as I got it.
Mark Marshall is the author of God Knows What It's Like to be a Teenager."
BBC's TV broadcast of King's Choir singing Carols
NY Hobbit | OH | 04/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since the 1960s the BBC has done a TV show recorded earlier in the month of the Choir of King's College singing Carols. It is a hour show and is based on the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. It is not the Service, but gives much the same readings and lessons. The TV show has freedom of lessons and number. Thus you will find a reading from a sermon, a poem, etc.
My favorite item on the DVD is the 1950s first TV broadcast which is based more on the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols. The sound is not equal to the newer items, but that issue aside, it is a great dvd."