I have no complaints about the music I heard. The cathedral choirs' first rate reputation is justified. Matthew Larkin's choral arrangements sounded faultless to me, and the organist and harpist played magnificently. However, I have half a mind to ask one of the Very Reverends or Right Reverends some questions about the framework.
- Why did the candlelit procession have to happen in silence? It would have been wonderful to have heard the choirs singing and not just treading, as they emerged from behind the scenes.
- Why were the lights kept off for seven of the nine Lessons (and Carols)? We were all handed an explanatory programme but nobody could read it in the dark.
- Why was the first Lesson read in French when none of the other Lessons were? If the few francophones in the church could follow the rest, and I'm sure they could, or else they wouldn't have come, why bother making a token gesture that alienates a large majority?
- Why finish each Bible reading, which surely speaks for itself, with: "Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church!"? This annoyingly repetitive and sanctimonious nagging adds absolutely nothing to the message of the story; in my opinion it detracts from it. It certainly detracts from the poetry of the occasion.
- Why include two unfamiliar hymns for the congregation to sing (Jesus came, the heavens adoring and Come, thou Redeemer) when there are so many better known Christmas carols to choose from? I am not one of those people who only wants to listen to the usual hackneyed stuff sung by the choir, quite the contrary, the more unconventional the better, but when it comes to my turn to sing, I like to recognise the words and / or music, or at least have access to some musical notation I could sightread.
- Why not use the archaic but beautiful words of the old, King James' Bible for the readings? Modern translations sound so inferior. Old version: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." What could be clearer than that? New version: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor [sic] rests.” Wasn't the whole point of Christianity to transcend such favouritism? But perhaps I have got it wrong.
Anyhow I came away touched by the music and not at all in a religious frame of mind regarding the Lessons. Then the following day (Christmas Eve) I tuned in to the BBC Radio 4 broadcast of the Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge, which was done properly, and put me into a less rebellious mood.