"Write a new Christmas carol over the summer, enter our competition, and — if you win — hear it performed in polyphonic splendour by the mighty Bach Choir in its Christmas concert in aid of the charity Action Medical Research.What prompted us to start a competition for new carols? After all, there are thousands in existence. They range from exquisite medieval lyrics such as Ther is no Rose of Swych Vertu and sturdy Victorian favourites — the likes of Good King Wenceslas and In the Bleak Midwinter — to, in our own day, the prolific works of John Rutter. Nearly every country where Christianity is practised has contributed to the genre, and the best carols are great travellers. Indeed, some foreign carols are so familiar that we don’t realise where they originated. Ding! Dong! Merrily on High was a saucy French knees-up. An unknown American gave us Away in a Manger. And We Three Kings of Orient Are comes not from the Orient, or even Leyton Orient, but Pennsylvania.
Yet even the richest of repertoires needs constant revitalisation if it is not to feel stale. Many is the carol service at which I have inwardly longed for a 25-year moratorium on the singing of O Come All Ye Faithful and O Little Town of Bethlehem. That’s one reason why we wanted to get budding composers and lyricists of all ages thinking afresh about carols. Another is the ubiquity of the genre. Is there another form of music and poetry that has the capacity to unite so many, from all generations, in hearty performance and benign fellow-feeling? Even at a time when fewer people sing hymns, carols have kept their universal appeal."Visit The Times for complete info
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