Twilight evenings at Chatsworth and carols in Trafalgar Square...
Everybody loves Christmas carols! In fact they could be considered the antidote to sprouts, which are nigh-on universally despised (and rightly so). From centuries-old madrigals to classical concerts, the warm echo of voices in grand cathedrals or joining in the frosty-breathed chorus outdoors, conjure up that Christmas spirit at one of these musical events:
Good old Cambridge. You can always rely on its academics to make a lesson out of everything. Thankfully, this won’t send you to sleep. No, in fact, ‘Nine Lessons’ actually refers to readings given in church, which are interspersed with carols. And thanks to the world-class King’s College Choir, these are some of the finest vocal performances around. It’s extremely popular so you’ll need to start queuing early (we’re talking 9am), but once inside the architectural marvel that is King’s College Chapel, you’ll see that it was well worth the wait.
When: 24 December 2011
Chatsworth knows how to do Christmas. Hear your favourite seasonal music performed against a backdrop of sumptuous visual displays before taking a twilight tour through the house’s beautifully decorated rooms. You can book a gourmet three-course dinner to top it all off too. During the day, kids are able to get involved with a traditional nativity – with real animals – held at the farmyard, and you can even treat yourself to a Christmas meal. You’ll need to book in advance, but it’s well worth it.
When: 24, 25 November, 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16 December
Coats, mittens and scarves on, everyone. It may be cold outside, but there’s nothing quite like singing carols in a crowd to keep you warm. Among the world’s most famous carol services, Trafalgar Square is very much the place to get together with all mankind and belt out the classic carols. The fountains are lit up beautifully, as is the National Gallery, and there’s an enormous Christmas tree. You’re right in the middle of a host of Christmas light-clad London sights too, if you fancy some post-carol sightseeing.
When: 5pm - 9pm, 5-22 December 2011
Brass bands, church choirs, nativity scenes and more. And it’s in a castle. It doesn’t get much better than this. Traditional medieval vibes in one of England’s best loved destinations, together with all sorts of musical delights to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Carols at Warwick Castle. Hear the ancient halls ring with Christmas voices, and go home feeling fuzzy and festive.
When: 17 December 2011 (7.30pm start, gates open at 6.45pm)
Don’t miss out on one of England’s best loved carol concerts. If you’re not near York, consider a festive train-journey to remedy this – you won’t regret it. York Minster’s Christmas Carol Concert will treat you to the angelic voices of its top-class choir and stun you into a festive reverie. You’ll also hear readings by guest readers Edward Stourton of BBC Radio 4 and poet Wendy Cope.
When: 9 December
Christmas carols at the Albert Hall anyone? You can sit back and be serenaded by the Royal Choral Society this year. They’ll perform well-known carols and other seasonal favourites within the epic grandeur of London’s premier concert venue. Joining in with the Carols For All is positively encouraged; just the thing to summon that festive feeling.
When: 12 December 2011
Christmas quizzes, orchestral marvels aplenty and, of course, carols! Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall hosts a great variety of Christmas goings-on suited to families of all ages. The Christmas Family Concert will keep the kids happy with sing-alongs and plenty of audience participation. If you prefer straight-up traditional carols and Christmas music, then the Hallé Carol Concert will wow you, as no less than three choirs work their magic.
When: Christmas Family Concert, 11 December 2011; Hallé Carol Concert, 17 December 2011
Carols aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. For those of us who prefer a bit of traditional Christmas music, without the carol singing, head to St George’s church in Jesmond, Newcastle, for Candlelit Christmas. There you’ll find the English Philharmonic Ensemble, who will serenade you with classics by famous composers, including Taverner and Vivaldi. There’s singing too, but sorry Good King Wencelas: not tonight.
When: 19 December 2011
Choir, organ, audience and plenty of festive enthusiasm go together to make Exeter Cathedral’s annual Christmas concert a real treat. It’s the perfect mix of choral performances and carol renditions in which the audience is welcome to participate, meaning you can take a break between bouts of seasonal singing and listen to the experts.
When: 17 December 2011
Birmingham Symphony Hall has a gift-box of Christmas music happening this December, as part of its Christmas Festival. Among the most festive is the family-friendly Christmas Carol singalong, when you can, well, sing along to all of your festive favourites. There is also a host of classical concerts, celebrity-led shows and candlelit evenings that will more than meet your musical needs this Christmas.
When: 20 December 2011
Christmas ice skating
Under the stars in the winter air...Outdoor ice skating