20 December 2022
“The choirs of Downe House brought us a glorious choral celebration of the Christmas story. Involving over 150 singers, our Carol Services were aglow with a choral warmth. Our choirs were truly magnificent! I couldn’t be more proud of all the work and that our choirs, led by our flagship choir Prima Voce, brought to these special services. Indeed, they truly did “Sing, choirs of angels”!” – Dr Charlotte Exon, Director of Music
St. Nicolas Church, Newbury and St. Mary Abbots Church, Kensington were both beautiful settings for the Carol Service’s and the School was delighted to welcome families, alumnae and staff to both services. Members of their alumnae community were also treated to a Festive Afternoon Tea before the London service, to show the School’s appreciation for their ongoing support and dedication to the life of the School.
“Our London service, held at St Mary Abbots, was particularly special with the priest’s mother and aunt also having been to Downe House; it added another connection in our very small world. The choirs were once again magnificent and did great justice to our Musician in Residence, Bob Chilcott’s, work.” – Mrs Emma McKendrick, Headmistress
“At our Carol Services a highpoint for me was the sense of unity and joy I felt as we sang together “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. So too were hearing the beautiful voices of the soloists and choirs, particularly as they sang “From a distance”. It was very imaginative and poignant to listen to our intercessors praying for the world against the background of the instrumental version of “From a distance”. Other significant moments were the reminder of the hope of peace for our world when we heard again the story of Jesus’ birth so sensitively read by members of our school community. I found that our Chapel Senior’s prayerful, beautiful reading of the poem, “Cloth from the Cradle” from the Iona Community, brought me back again to the hope and healing which Jesus’s birth brings to our world.” – Revd Anthea Platt, Downe House Chaplin
Pupils from all ages across the School were part of both services, giving readings which were interspersed with congregational carols and prayer. Amongst the pieces performed by the choirs was ‘On Christmas Night’ by Bob Chilcott, written in 2010 for the University Christian Church in Austin, Texas; a dynamic and artistic church close to the University of Texas and the impressive State Capitol Building. The piece was designed to tell the Christmas story through a sequence of eight carols that tell of the fall of Adam, the promise of a child’s coming, the journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.
“It was a real joy to me that my piece ‘On Christmas Night’ was sung and played this year by the choirs and instrumentalists of Downe House as part of the Christmas Carol Service. The carols have a range of texts that are largely familiar and in many instances in the piece I have combined new melodies with a number of well-known carol melodies. The piece is bookended by a few verses from a longer traditional English poem from 1847 called ‘A Good Christmas Box’ that begins with the words, ‘This is the truth sent from above’ and ends with the heart-warming and hopeful bidding: ‘God grant to us within this place true saving faith, that special grace.’” – Bob Chilcott, Downe House Musician in Residence
The School would like to thank everyone who donated so generously to their chosen charities in the retiring collections: Hope and Home for Children, Castle School, Médecins Sans Frontières, Bloody Good Period and Families First in Fife.