The world-famous Christmas Eve service at King’s College in Cambridge will not be sung live this year, with a pre-recorded version to be broadcast instead.
The college said in a statement that, “in the face of Covid-19”, it had decided to make a recording of the service a few weeks before Christmas as an “additional precaution”.
“In the light of current conditions, it is this recording of 2020’s A Festival Of Nine Lessons And Carols that will be broadcast at the usual time on December 24,” the college said.
It had already decided that, for safety reasons, there would be no congregation this year.
Revd Dr Stephen Cherry, Dean of King’s College, said: “Sad though we are not to be together in the chapel for the service on Christmas Eve, we are delighted that we will be able to share our Festival Of Nine Lessons And Carols this year.
“The amount of travel involved in gathering the choir and crew from around the country for the service, and the possible risks of infection at a time when the statistics are getting worse, made this the responsible, safer and more prudent option.”
The service was first held in 1918, first broadcast in 1928, and is now broadcast to millions of people around the world.
It normally goes out live at 3pm on 24th December.
It marks the start of Christmas for many, and the opening carol is always Once In Royal David’s City.
Professor Michael Proctor, Provost of King’s College, said: “King’s College is hugely proud of its choir and chapel and we prize very highly the traditions of Christmas Eve.
“Although we are devastated that the service will not be sung live, it is very much this year’s service with this year’s choir, repertoire and lessons. We hope that those who listen will find its beauty and message as comforting and inspiring as it has been every other year.”
Tim Pemberton, head of religion for BBC Radio, said: “We understand and support the college’s decision and are delighted that audiences will still be able to hear the Nine Lessons And Carols from King’s College that they have come to expect on Christmas Eve on BBC Radio 4.”
The separate television service, Carols From King’s, is always pre-recorded and will be broadcast on Christmas Eve.
This year it features the choristers of the Choir of King’s College alongside the King’s Singers, who stepped in at the last minute to replace the men of the choir after two from the same household tested positive for Covid-19 shortly before filming began.