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The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols supporting Mayor’s Charities and celebrating the hymns of Cecil Frances Alexander


This year’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at St Columb’s Cathedral will take place on Sunday 18th of December with all proceeds going to the Mayor’s chosen charities, the Foyle Branch of the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK.

The service is usually held on the Sunday before Christmas and is a tradition which began in England stretching back over 100 years. The Nine Lessons trace the history of salvation from the Creation of the world throughout the Old Testament to the Incarnation itself and culminates in the Christmas Gospel of St John  Chapter 1.

The Very Rev Dr William Morton, Dean of Derry is encouraging people from across the city to join the celebration:
“The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a very traditional part of Christmas in the Anglican Church. You might be more familiar with the service than you realise as it’s the same format as BBC2’s Kings College Cambridge service which is broadcast every Christmas Eve. The carols may vary but are chosen to link with readings and we are very fortunate to have the Cathedral’s choir of Boys and Gentlemen rendering several choral items.. It is a very special celebration and we really hope that people from across the city will join us in celebration”

Those attending the service in St Columb’s Cathedral will be treated to classics such as internationally renowned “Once in Royal David’s City”. The hymn has special connections to the cathedral and the city as it was written by Cecil Frances Alexander who married William Alexander who was to become Bishop of Derry and Raphoe from 1867-1896. They lived in the Bishops Palace opposite the Courthouse and she penned many classic verses including “All Things Bright and Beautiful” and “There is a Green Hill far Away”. She wrote the poem, which was later set to music, as a way to help teach her godchildren the Christian faith.

We have several factors to thank for her poems becoming internationally recognised and celebrated as hymns. Cecil Frances moved in quite literary circles and her involvement with the Oxford Movement at a time of great change in the accessibility of print meant that her writing was published. The mid eighteen hundreds was also a time of prolific hymn writing and all these factors combined lead to her words becoming legendary down through history and across the world.

St Columb’s Cathedral is understandably proud of Cecil Frances Alexander and her connection to the City, an original copy of her book of “Hymns for Little Children” published in 1848 is housed in the Cathedral.
Mayor Alderman Maurice Devenney says:
“It is magnificent to hear Cecil Frances Alexander’s words ring out in the Cathedral, it makes the Nine Lessons & Carols service even more special. It is a wonderful service, capturing the spirit of the Christmas season and bringing people from throughout the city together. I would like to express my sincere thanks to Dean Morton, Cathedral Staff and Choirs for their work throughout the year and in particular for arranging this wonderful service and supporting the hard work and dedication of the Foyle Branch of the MS Society and Parkinson’s UK.”

The Nine Lessons and Carols service begins at 7.30pm on Sunday 18th December and is a free event, however donations are most welcome and all proceeds will go directly to the Mayor’s Charities. A preview of the Cathedral Choir can be heard on; a copy of their CD “All Things Bright & Beautiful – The Hymns of Cecil Frances Alexander”, would make a wonderful Christmas gift and is available at the Cathedral.
For full details of the city’s Christmas season events please, follow on Facebook or call Derry city Council on 02871 365151.


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