A New Carol for an Old Christmas Tradition
by Alex Marshall
LONDON — Every Christmas Eve, the British composer Cecilia McDowall follows the same routine. At 3 p.m., as family members arrive at her London home, she goes into the kitchen, turns on the radio and starts making a Christmas pudding — a slow-cooked, booze-soaked British dessert — while listening to the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, perform its Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
That service of Bible readings and Christmas music is one of Britain’s best known festive traditions, broadcast live on radio stations worldwide, including on around 450 in the United States. A spokesman for the choir estimated that 100 million listeners would tune in. But this year, McDowall won’t be in the kitchen. Instead, she will be sitting in King’s College’s huge Gothic chapel, listening as the choir performs There Is No Rose, a carol she has written especially for the event.