From the archives: a Christmas record

By Neil Sayer, Archdiocesan archivist

In among all the paper, plans, photographs, letters and newsprint in the Archdiocesan archives, there are also some actual vinyl records. This one pictured is of Christmas carols recorded by the Cathedral Choir. The recording took place in September 1981, and it must have been quite odd to sing ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ soon after returning from summer holidays.

The recorded programme also includes ‘O Come, All Ye Faithful’, which the sleeve notes (remember them?) describe as ‘the most frequently sung carol of all’. Whilst there is no ‘Silent Night’, the vinyl record does include ‘Away in a Manger’, which certainly agrees with my memory of being ‘traditionally the first carol a child learns to sing’. If you bought the LP back in 1981, you were supporting the endowment fund for budding choristers.
The Cathedral Choir had been founded in 1960 and initially performed at services and events in the Crypt. Thanks to their recordings, by radio and television broadcasts, and through tours abroad, the choir became well-known and respected both nationally and internationally. In 1981, when the record was made, the choir was still all-male. The boy choristers were all pupils at St Edward’s School, and the other voices in the choir – the tenors, altos and basses – were often former choirboys. The chorister pictured on the sleeve of the record lighting a candle is now a consultant surgeon.
Carol concerts have been held in the Cathedral since it opened in 1967. This year there will be no Advent carol service, and we’ll certainly miss our schools services for the season, when 2,000 children would sing carols old and new and listen to the traditional Christmas story. But you can still hear the Cathedral Choir, even if you no longer have a record-player on which to play your copy of the album.
They will be presenting Carols at the Cathedral on 19 and 20 December. These events, which are ticket-only with limited numbers able to attend, start at 6pm. Even though you won’t be able to join in with the singing, you may be able to get a little of the joy of the season by listening to your favourite carols performed in a festive atmosphere. Tickets can be booked online through the Cathedral website.