Part of our family Christmas Eve tradition is to listen to the broadcast from Kings College Cambridge of their Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which in Hawaii has been aired at 8:30 am on Christmas Eve morning. The broadcast has been sponsored in Hawaii by the choir of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu for over thirty years. Carl always fixes us a nice breakfast while we listen to the service. In the early years he would fastidiously copy down the names of the choir carols during the broadcast, but in recent years, the program has been posted to the internet. You can find this year’s 52-page booklet by clicking here and you can find PDF copies of the programs all the way back to 1997 here.
Our family was most fortunate to be able to be in attendance at two of the Lessons and Carols services — in 1992 and 1999 when Carl took sabbaticals from LCH and he decided to spend Christmas Eve at Kings College. No tickets are necessary to enter the service, just a lot of patience and endurance! Both in 1992 and in 1999, we started standing in “The Queue” about 8:30 in the morning and had no trouble getting a seat. But boy, were we frozen after being in line about five hours, especially in 1992 when it was 27° F. outside and with snow on the ground. You start up conversations with the people standing in line, and both years, we brought chocolate macadamia nut candy from Hawaii to share with our new friends.
I especially loved reading the instructions to the congregation in this year’s booklet. The very first instructions, after the cover page, are procedures for evacuation, “in the unlikely event that an emergency evacuation of the Chapel becomes necessary.”
“In order not to spoil the service for other members of the congregation and radio listeners, please do not talk or cough unless it is absolutely necessary.”
“Please wait until the Choir has finished singing each piece before turning the pages as quietly as possible.”
“The congregation is asked not to talk during the organ music which is played before the service.” (I wish this was the norm for ALL church services!) Sorry that they don’t broadcast the organ prelude music — I was very pleased to see that the Canonic Variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch by Bach was the closing selection! You must know that this is a piece I’ve been practicing, in spite of the fact that I am not playing any Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services anywhere this year!
Being in that historic building and hearing the sound of the choir soaring up to the vaulted ceilings is truly magical. The audio broadcast is only a snippet of what it sounds like in real life. I would highly recommend that you put this experience on your bucket list!