Christmas carol concerts have taken a bit of a knock this year, what with singing in public being firmly off the agenda. But all is not lost – plenty of venues are hosting online carol services, while others are bravely ploughing ahead with scaled-back, Covid-secure versions of events
Lead image: Carols at the Old Royal Naval College (photo © ORNC Greenwich)
1 Quintessentially Foundation’s Virtual Christmas Carol Concert, online
Quintessentially Foundation’s annual The Fayre of St. James’s Christmas carol concert takes place online this year, in aid of The Childhood Trust and The Felix Project. Usually held in the enchanted setting of St James’s Church Piccadilly, The Fayre of St James’s 2020 will be a memorable virtual carol concert hosted by Stephen Fry with readings and festive performances from Craig David, Cressida Bonas, Ian Somerhalder, Jack Whitehall, Poppy Delevingne, Rupert Everett, Simon Cowell and other surprise guests on the night. Tickets are £30, which will buy more than 180 meals for The Felix Project or help The Childhood Trust support London’s most disadvantaged children.
2 The Institute of Cancer Research’s Virtual Carols from Chelsea, online
The Institute of Cancer Research presents its 18th annual Carols from Chelsea service, although this time it’s online. The festive occasion will feature carols and music directed by Will Vann, as well as readings from Eddie Redmayne and In-Pensioner Dewi Treharne, beamed from the beautiful Wren Chapel at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The carol service recording will be available from Tuesday 1 December 2020 at 7pm. The Institute of Cancer Research is asking for donations following a particularly difficult year for cancer patients. To donate, see support.icr.ac.uk
3 The Chapel at The Old Royal Naval College’s Christmas Concerts, Greenwich
1, 4, 13 & 14 December
The Old Royal Naval College’s Chapel Christmas Concerts will be held both online and live at the chapel, subject to government guidance, this year. Enjoy a Christmas sing-along to two live-streamed carol services on 1 & 4 December 2020, or celebrate the festive season and the end of lockdown in person on 13 & 14 December at beautiful carol services in the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul. The Chapel Choir will be singing favourite carols, including Handel’s Messiah.
King William Walk, Greenwich SE10 9NN; ornc.org/christmas
4 Breast Cancer Haven’s Christmas Hope Concert, online
Join Gok Wan, Dame Sarah Connelly, Alan Titchmarsh, Lisa Riley and members of the Breast Cancer Haven community and begin your Christmas celebrations with the renewed hope that the festive season brings. The one-hour event will feature seasonal readings and music performances to being people together and raise much-needed funds to support anyone with breast cancer this winter. From 7pm. Tickets from £15.
5 Shelter’s ‘Home Hope Song’ Virtual Carol Concert, online
This winter, housing and homelessness charity Shelter is aiming to host the UK’s biggest virtual carol concert. Hosted by DJ and long-time Shelter supporter Edith Bowman, the ‘Home Hope Song’ concert will be hosted in the candle-lit church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, where Shelter was founded in 1966. The service will feature the stories of people who have been supported by Shelter, as well as exclusive appearances from famous faces including Julie Walters, Stephen Fry and Robert Rinder. The concert will be free to stream, but any donations made will support Shelter’s work. As the event sponsors, Nationwide Building Society will match fund donations up to £43,000. The 45-minute concert will be streamed via Shelter’s website from 7pm.
6 Place2Be’s Virtual Carol Concert
Children’s mental health charity Place2Be is hosting a virtual Christmas carol concert on Thursday 3 December, packed with festive cheer, carols, live performances and readings. Famous faces including Sophie Dahl (a Place2Be Ambassador), Damian Lewis, Keira Knightley, Rhys Stephenson and Nina Sosanya will all be giving seasonal readings, while the carols will be led by Soprano Laura Wright, together with the St Marylebone Parish choir. The event will be co-hosted by acclaimed singer, pianist and songwriter Joe Stilgoe, and broadcaster, journalist and charity ambassador Katie Thistleton. Place2Be will be live-streaming all the action from the beautiful St Marylebone Parish Church. Tickets start from £20 with all proceeds going towards the vital work Place2Be does supporting children’s mental health in schools across the UK. From 6.30pm.
7 Action for Children’s Starry Night, online
Action for Children is hosting a celebrity-studded virtual carol concert to help spread some Christmas joy to children who need extra love and support this Christmas. Starry Night, presented by none other than Channel 4 legend Jon Snow, will feature classic carols sung by The Epiphoni Consort, special guests including Leona Lewis, Liam Gallagher and Call the Midwife’s Jenny Agutter OBE, readings by TV’s Angellica Bell and Nadia Sawalha, and comedy from Jess Hynes. Tickets for the event cost just £10 per household, which will hep the charity to reach even more vulnerable children. Currently, there are more than four million children who live in poverty in the UK. So many of these children won’t wake up on Christmas morning in warm homes, to an abundance of delicious food or presents under the tree. 6.30pm-7.30pm.
8 Carols for the City with The Lord Mayor of the City of London, online
The Lord Mayor of the City of London, in conjunction with the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists and The VOCES8 Foundation, presents Carols for the City online. Celebrate the festive season with the Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman William Russell, and a distinguished line up of readers led by HRH Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex KG, GCVO. With mulled wine and mince pie in hand, you’ll be sung to by the internationally renowned and city-grown vocal ensemble VOCES8, sister group Apollo5 and local school students. The carols will be live streamed from the Church of St Anne & St Agnes in the City from 5.30pm. Money raised from the service will go to four charities: The Lord Mayor’s Appeal, The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists Charity, The VOCES8 Foundation, and The Friends of the City Churches. Tickets are £5 and additional donations are welcome.
9 Fulham Camerata Virtual Carol Concert
Fulham Camerata has gone for a virtual sing-along this year. Get into the festive spirit by joining Fulham Camerata on Zoom to sing some seasonal carols together. The sing-along carol concert is free of charge and open to all at 7.30pm on Tuesday 8 December 2020, lasting about 45 minutes. To join in the festive fun, email firstname.lastname@example.org for the music and joining instructions.
10 Childline’s Merry Little Christmas Concert, online
Get into the festive spirit with Childline’s Merry Little Christmas Concert – which unsurprisingly is going online this year. The evening will hosted by Ore Oduba, with the incredible Leona Lewis confirmed to perform and appearances from special guests including Martin Freeman and Geri Horner. There will also be spectacular musical performances and magical entertainment for everyone to enjoy from the likes of West End Kids, the talented BBC Young Chorister of the year Anna Haestrup, Britain’s Got Talent favourites the D-Day Juniors and D-Day Darlings, and magician Ben Hanlin. From 7pm. Tickets from £20 per household. You can also help Childline support more children this Christmas by bidding on fantastic prizes in the Merry Little Christmas Online Auction.
Sloane Street SW1X 9BZ; nspcc.org.uk
11 A Colla Voce Christmas by Candlelight, Pimlico
The Colla Voce Singers will be performing your favourite carols and gems from around the world during their popular Christmas concert, back with a revamped programme. The event takes place at St Gabriel’s Church in Warwick Square, Pimlico, this year, from 6pm-7pm on Saturday 12 December 2020. Tickets £15. Face masks will be required throughout the performance.
St Gabriel’s, Pimlico, Warwick Square SW1V 2AD. To book see eventbrite.co.uk
12 Holy Trinity Clapham’s Carol Concerts, Clapham
12, 13 & 20 December
Holy Trinity Clapham on Clapham Common is hosting a number of live carol concerts in December, as well as offering a live stream option for those who prefer to stay at home. Choose from Carols by Candlelight on 12 & 13 December at 4pm, 5.30pm and 7pm, both days, Family Carols on 20 December at 9.15am and 10.15am, and Contemporary Carols on 20 December at 4pm, 5.30pm and 7pm. The concerts are free but capacity is limited so you must register in advance here. You can also watch live online via the church’s YouTube channel.
Clapham Common North Side SW4 0QZ; holytrinityclapham.org
13 St Simon Zelotes Carols by Candlelight Service, Chelsea
St Simon Zelotes, the Grade II* listed work of architect Joseph Peacock, is hosting a bespoke, socially-distanced version of its annual Carols by Candlelight service on Sunday 6 December. With a Covid-secure capacity of 90 people, you’re advised to book early for this free carol service. The first service takes place at 5pm, followed by a second at 6.30pm (services last 45 minutes). If you find that the service is fully booked, please contact Gloria Skelsey at email@example.com to be added to the waiting list. Masks are required during the service.
34 Milner Street, Chelsea SW3 2QF. To book see eventbrite.co.uk
14 Koor’s Festive Carol Concerts, online
11, 16 & 21 December
Koor, a free app that helps choral singers to learn and improve, launched a series of festive workshops to enable people to sing safety in their own homes this year. Taught by singers from some of the world’s top professional choirs, the programmes will culminate in three exclusive online performances, streamed live from St John’s Smith Square and Blackheath Hall. Programme 1 (Messiah, G. F. Handel) will be performed on 11 December at Saint John’s Smith Square, programme 2 (Mass in C, Ludwig van Beethoven) will be performed on 16 December at Blackheath Halls, and programme 3 (In Terra Pax, with works including Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols and Gustav Holst’s Christmas Day) will be performed on 21 December at St John’s Smith Square. Each concert starts at 7.30pm and can be watched via youtube.com/koorvideos.
Find out more at koor.app/messiah
15 MS Society’s Virtual Christmas Concert, online
MS Society is hosting a virtual Christmas concert this year, filmed in the beautiful setting of St Paul’s Church in Knightsbridge and broadcast on Tuesday 15 December 2020 from 7pm. Hosted by Dave Myers from the Hairy Bikers, the festive programme will feature Christmas carols and readings from Emilia Fox, Robert Powell and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. The pandemic has presented additional challenges for people with multiple sclerosis, and as such the MS Society is grateful to the continued support of its community. Tickets are £25 via eventbrite.co.uk.
16 The Story of Christmas Virtual Carol Concert, online
Founded in 1978, The Story of Christmas is a charity carol service that takes place each year at St George’s Hanover Square. This year, the carol service will be filmed and released on YouTube on Wednesday 16 December for free, but The Story of Christmas welcomes donations via its JustGiving page so that it may support charitable organisations such as 999 Club, Ambitious About Autism, Cherry Trees, Harringon, Look Ahead, Momentum Children’s Charity, West London Mission & Young Westminster Foundation. The carol concert, with The Band & Fanfare Trumpeters of the Scots Guards and The Choir of St Paul’s Cathedral, will featur contributions from celebrities including Dame Floella Benjamin, Clare Balding, Olivia Colman, Dame Judi Dench, Freddie Fox, Dawn French, Tim Henman, Ian Hislop, Aled Jones, Miriam Margolyes, Captain Sir Tom Moore, Graham Norton and David Tennant. There will also be a charity auction running from 2-16 December.
17 Southwark Cathedral Carol Services, London Bridge
20, 21 & 22 December
Southwark Cathedral hosts a number of carol concerts, due to their sell-out popularity. This year, the cathedral is anticipating Christmas in three carol services courtesy of Southwark Cathedral’s choir. Cathedral Carol Service I takes place on 20 December, Cathedral Carol Service II on 21 December and Cathedral Carol Service III on 22 December. The services are free but you must register to attend and be seated by 5.30pm for a 6pm start. There’s also the Southwark Cathedral Choir Christmas Concert on Friday 18 December at 7.30pm (tickets £10-£15), with traditional Christmas carols performed by the Boys and Gentlemen of the Cathedral choir, interspersed with readings by screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and actor Timothy West.
Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge SE1 9DA; cathedral.southwark.anglican.org
18 Carols by Candlelight at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea
Catch Carols by Candlelight is a sublime concert of carols and seasonal classics, staged by candlelight at the one and only Cadogan Hall in Chelsea. Taking place on Christmas Eve, the enchanting programme of seasonal classics includes Cullen’s Joy to the World and Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim, alongside carols such as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O’ Little Town of Bethlehem. Performed by the Mozart Festival Ensemble and Chorus, with soprano Harriet Eyley and conductor Steven Devine. Special guest reader Mark Williams completes the line up with a selection of festive readings. From 3pm. Tickets £45.
5 Sloane Terrace, Chelsea SW1X 9DQ; cadoganhall.com
19 Christmas with Sonoro, Wimbledon
Sonoro is putting on two Covid-secure carol concerts this year at St John’s Church in Wimbledon. Featuring Michael Higgins on the organ and conductor Neil Ferris, the programme will include festive favourites such as O’ Little Town of Bethlehem, In the Bleak Midwinter and Ding Dong! Merrily on High. There will also be traditional texts set anew and beautifully crafted arrangements of familiar melodies. The concerts will both run on 16 December, from 5.30pm and 8pm. Tickets on sale from 2 December.
Spencer Hill, Wimbledon SW19 4NZ; sonoromusic.com
20 Carols at The Royal Albert Hall, Kensington
The Royal Albert Hall is planning plenty of festive events this year, all socially distanced and Covid-secure, of course, but their carol service is one of London’s finest. The iconic venue is rolling out the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Richard Cooke, along with the Royal Choral Society and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain to sing the world’s favourite carols, with organ accompaniment on the Voice of Jupiter (the halls’ 9,999 pipe organ). These special concerts have become a festive favourite over the years and 2020 is no exception. From 1.30pm and 7.30pm, tickets £25-£59.50.
Kensington Gore SW7 2AP; royalalberthall.com