Lessons & Carols
  • Good morning!

    So this year we're foregoing our usual "Christmas Cantata" with a Lessons and Carols service. Being relatively inexperienced, I've never done one and I've been trying to research formats that are specific to the Catholic Church. I found a very nice Anglican format, but there are some obvious deviations from what would be expected from a Catholic service.

    I'd be interested in hearing from folks who have experience with presenting these, and perhaps even sharing your program, not so I can pick music, but so I can have a bird's-eye perspective on what the whole thing looks like!

    Also, it seems like it would be a sin to not include our newly-formed schola, and so if anyone knows of appropriate chants to include in such a service, that would be very much appreciated.

  • Maureen
    Posts: 678
    We had another thread about this, and I seem to remember that it turned out when we looked into it that the Anglican format was actually very very close to the old Catholic breviary's Office for Matins on Christmas Eve, or something like that.....

    Ah. Here's the thread.

    You'll see that there's actually some kind of Catholic "lessons and carols" available, also. I don't think your request was fully answered in that thread, though; and anyway, different people have experience with different materials.

    Good luck! I think it's great, what you're doing!
  • Thank you, Maureen.

    That thread gives me some good ideas for music, which we really have no shortage of here to use; I think what I need more than anything is a listing of appropriate prayers that open and close the service, as well as any other items beyond the readings and musical selections, and where those fit in. Then I can put that tamplate in place and the rest is easy. :)
  • I'm not sure whether you are asking about an Advent L&C service, or one for Christmas.

    Here is one for Advent that I participated in a few years ago. It has four readings with a verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" after each one, along with some choir pieces.
  • Thank you, Rich, that's also helpful. As it turns out, poking around USCCB gave me most of everything else I needed. I think I'm good to go! Thanks, everyone!
  • Also worth looking at the program for the liturgy prior to Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral.
  • Ted
    Posts: 204
    Here is the USCCB link that has a suggestion for this:


    Certainly, different appropriate chorales / hymns/carols could be used.

    Lessons and Carols would be a wonderful substitute for Christmas concerts in a church.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,474
    Here is our L&C service 2012
    You can also check out the Kings college Cambridge site that has program booklets with the music going back many years.
    I like this much better than doing a 'concert' the scriptures are central.
    Thanked by 1mgearthman
  • francis
    Posts: 10,709
    hey thanks ghmus7... we may do this exact service.
  • donr
    Posts: 971
    When is this supposed to be done. Is it over several weeks or one service?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,182
    Here's a bit of the history of "Lessons and Carols" services. The service from King's College is broadcast live Christmas Eve on BBC 4 radio (and therefore available over the internet) at 10 a.m. US Eastern time. It is also carried on American Public Radio (at the same time) though the organ pieces at the end are usually truncated in the US feed.
  • This service/concert takes around two to three hours, depending on the music that is programmed. Traditionally, this is a Christmas Eve service that ends at midnight; it has a better visual effect (lit candles) at night.
  • You might want to look at the layout that I've written about here:

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,956
    I haven't done lessons and carols in a number of years, and then it was in a Protestant church. I remember that it was a setting written by David N. Johnson. I have never done one in a Catholic Church and wonder if anyone would even show up for it. Western Catholics are so singularly obsessed with the mass as the only legitimate expression of worship, they generally will not even attend Vespers.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Wikipedia's article on Nine Lessons and Carols is also very informative.
  • Neva
    Posts: 3
    We did a l&c service for the last five years at the retirement home where I live...they've all been well attended (standing room one year) and most of the attendees were Catholics. I think they just wanted to sing favorite carols and hear the Christmas readings at nighttime. Mass was a separate affairs.
    Thanked by 1a_f_hawkins
  • Neva
    Posts: 3
    PS due to their ages and attention span, we abbreviation the lessons to five. They also used a full program for participation.
  • Neva
    Posts: 3
    PPS your schola could easily be worked in doing the O antiphons
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 264
    You could do an Office of the Readings with each reading followed by an appropriate musical reflection or meditation on the preceding reading.
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,501
    I have never done one in a Catholic Church and wonder if anyone would even show up for it. Western Catholics are so singularly obsessed with the mass as the only legitimate expression of worship, they generally will not even attend Vespers.

    I've done Vespers and a Lessons and Carols and this has been my experience.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • We have choral evensong at Walsingham about once a month sung by our resident semi-professional evensong choir. The church is usually packed for it. Of course, evensong is traditional in the liturgical and spiritual lives of Anglicans. With encouragement and catechesis on the part of pastors and musical directors, I would think that many Catholics would avail themselves of similar opportunities.
    In a sense, though, the church has been its own worst enemy in creating an atmosphere in which one goes to church to fulfill an obligation rather than because one loves 'church'. The widespread phenomenon of people who would never darken the doors of a church unless it was to fulfill an 'obligation' is the unfortunate result.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,182
    At Olbash's parish, we hold Lessons and Carols during Christmastide. It ends, for example, with the prologue of St. John's Gospel. This year's music included Hassler's Ave Maris Stella and the Magi videntes stellam of Clemens non Papa, plus some Oxford carols.
    (Note: the choir of volunteers from all over the area rehearsed for a sum of 45 minutes before the event, so any imperfections are understandable.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,411
    Western Catholics are so singularly obsessed with the mass as the only legitimate expression of worship,
    This is a post VaticanII phenomenon, and largely made by clerics. Before the fasting rule was relaxed, a priest wanting to offer something to his parishoners after midday would choose Vespers, Holy Hour, Benediction or some combination of these.
    Note also that Good Friday is not of obligation, and yet is one of the most crowded services of the year. One factor is that apart from such major events, religious practice is a matter of routine, one constructs ones life into a repetitive pattern, and it takes time to readjust.
    Thanked by 3CharlesW Liam CHGiffen
  • About Chonak's L & Cs service posted just above -
    A valiant and impressive effort if, indeed, the choir put this together in a mere 45 minutes before the event!
    I found it interesting that the old church English familiar to Anglicans was adhered to throughout the 'office', and that the Authorised Version (better known as the KJV) was used for all the lessons.
    All told, this was a fine offering.
    Thanks for posting it.

    (We don't even use the 'Kings James Version' in the Ordinariate! We use the Catholic RSV. Many of us wish for the 'King James', but Rome would not allow it.)
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CGM
    Posts: 690
    In case anyone's looking, the USCCB page is now here.