Bradfield’s end-of-term Carol Services have always been hugely popular. “Magical, marvellous and memorable” was how one parent described last year’s events. So, with the College unable to welcome live audiences to the Chapel, or take up our usual night at St James’s Church, Paddington, a Carols from Bradfield film was produced.

This year the service took the traditional form of Nine Lessons and Carols and each of the College’s five Chapel Choir bubbles performed alongside the Bradfield Brass Ensemble. The video was professionally recorded by Apple and Biscuit Recordings over two evenings in the final week of term, capturing the beautifully decorated Chapel.

The opening solo Once in Royal David’s City was performed by soloist Charlotte (LK), one of our superb Faulkner’s vocalists, and brought some comfort in its familiarity. There was, of course, no congregational singing, but the choir, brass and organ still treated us to an array of classic Christmas carols, concluding with a rapturous performance of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Interspersed amongst these more familiar carols were the readings and exquisite offerings from the individual choirs illuminating the Christmas story.

The contrast within any carol service has always been one of its popular appeals. Through Stopford’s Lully, Lulla, Lullay the infant king is sung a lullaby, gently performed by the Year 13 choir. Soloist George (LE) delighted with his performance in Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, alongside the Shell choir. In stark contrast, the combined Faulkner’s, Shell and Fifth Form choirs performed Britten’s This Little Babe accompanied by Holly (K) on the harp. This piece from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols is an ecstatic journey through the excitement of the coming of the saviour. Though rehearsed separately, it was a relief that COVID regulations and the sheer volume of airflow in the Chapel allowed these Year Groups to come together with social distancing. With such a show of force in the lower school, the future of the Chapel choir looks very bright indeed.

Other highlights included the reprise of O Holy Night with solos from Upper Sixth Scholars Holly (K) and Tom (G) and the stillness which was brought by Lower Sixth pupils’ performance of Silent Night. The Shell choir glistened in their performance of Rutter’s Sans Day Carol and the Fifth Form brought us A Maiden Most Gentle, an adoration of the Virgin Mary.

Despite the challenges this year, the Chapel choir has made the most of working in smaller year group ensembles. It is always uplifting to watch our young musicians step up to the challenge, whether that be a whole year group who find themselves without the support of their elder peers, or an individual within a group who is suddenly all alone in a part. We can feel confident that rather than being haunted by the ‘Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come’, we can look forward to the future and embrace it with open arms.

The online concert raised over £750 in support of the charity Children with Cancer, selected by our community. The charity helps to fund research into the causes and treatment of childhood cancers, to help families deal with burden of a cancer diagnosis, and to raise awareness of childhood cancer.