Christmas carol concerts: London sing-alongs to book in 2019
From majestic performances in stunning settings to intimate local gatherings in churches near you, we round up the best Christmas carol concerts London has to offer
Whether you’re an aspiring chorister or someone who rarely warbles outside the shower, there’s no better place than London to welcome the season with song. The capital offers an enormous array of carol services throughout December – here’s our pick of the best.
BREATHTAKING: A Service of Lessons and Carols
Does it get more magical than Westminster Abbey at Christmas? Choirs, cloisters and poets' ghosts make for a breathtaking backdrop to the ever-popular Christmas carol services. The free tickets for this enchanting evening are always snapped up in flash so set a reminder for Tuesday 12 and Thursday 14 November when tickets will be released in batches at 9:30am and 2:30pm
When: 23 December, 6PM - 7PM; 24 December 4PM - 5PM
Where: Westminster Abbey
CLASSIC: Advent Season at St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is at its most magical during the festive season. Its Christmas schedule is full of concerts and events, culminating in the cathedral’s world-famous carol services on the 23 and 24 December. There’s a great atmosphere on both afternoons, as keen carollers queue around the building, warming up their vocal chords with flasks of tea while mince-pie sellers make their way up and down the line. Doors open one hour before the start – get there as early as you can. If you don’t make it in, fear not – the whole service is beamed live on a screen in Paternoster Square next to the cathedral.
When: 23 & 24 December 2019, 4PM - 5:10PM
Where: St Paul's Cathedral, London EC4M 8AD
Cost: Free and not ticketed, doors open 45 minutes before services begin
RIVERSIDE CATHEDRAL: Christmas Carol Concert
This two-night candlelit carol concert in atmospheric Southwark Cathedral is in support of Feed The Minds, a small charity supporting communities across Africa and Asia through education projects. This family concert includes many sing-alongs alongside classic carols from Quorum Chamber Choir. The last three years were completely sold out. This year, a second date has been added but book now to avoid disappointment.
When: 10 & 13 December 2019, 7:30PM - 9PM (doors at 7PM)
Where: Southwark Cathedral
Cost: £12 - £33
ON A GRAND SCALE: Carols at the Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall's extensive and varied Christmas programme culminates in two carol concerts in spectacular surroundings on 23 and 24 December. Highlights include Christmas with the Salvation Army, John Rutter's ever-popular Christmas Celebration, and Bloodwise's Christmas Extravaganza concert in support of research into blood cancers.
When: Various dates from 3 - 24 December 2019
Where: Royal Albert Hall
Cost: £22 - £210.50
FAMILY FESTIVITIES: Festive Family Carols by Candlelight
If you’d like to take your kids carolling, this hour-long service at St Martin-in-the-Fields is perfect for little children with short attention spans. St Martin’s Voices, a vocal ensemble made up of choral scholars past and present, sing a whole host of Christmas classics, inviting everyone to join in. This atmospheric church has hosted classical concerts for over 250 years. Head here for carols by candlelight and a side of child-friendly entertainment.
When: 22 December 2019, 4PM - 5PM
Where: St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square
Cost: £10 - £20
GOOD CAUSE: The Lullaby Trust's carols by candlelight
Belt out your favourite carols for a good cause at the Lullaby Trust's annual Christmas carol concert. Not much of a singer? No problem, because former finalists of the BBC's Gospel Choir of the Year competition and Sing Gospel are lending their experienced voices to the event. The Trust's ambassador, bestselling historian, award-winning journalist and TV presenter, Dan Jones is also attending the event. Also attending are comedian, author and sports personality Mark Watson, and historian, broadcaster and writer Tessa Dunlop. Proceeds from this concert go to bereavement support and research relating to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
When: 3 December 2018, 6:45PM - 8PM
Where: St James's Church, Clerkenwell, Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0EA
Cost: £10 - £20
THE WAY TO WESTMINSTER: Carol Concert
Head to Westminster Abbey for a carol concert on a grand scale in one of the most picturesque settings in London. Expect a selection of festive choral works interspersed with seasonal readings and traditional carols to sing along to.
When: 12 December, 7PM - 8:15PM
Where: Westminster Cathedral
Cost: £15 - £40
FEATURING JOANNA LUMLEY: Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals' Carols by Candlelight
This year, Carols by Candlelight hosts Joanna Lumley as guest speaker in the majestic St Luke's Church, Chelsea. With performances from Singing for Breathing and the ICOSA Choir, along with classic readings, this service is enough to warm even Ebenezer Scrooge's heart. After an hour of carols, celebrate the coming of Christmas with mulled wine and mince pies at Royal Brompton Hospital. All proceeds go to #MoreTimeMoreLives ECMO Appeal, raising funds for patients with life-threatening illnesses.
When: 18 December, 6:30PM
Where: St Luke's Church, Sydney Street, Chelsea, London SW3 6NH
Cost: £10 – £20
OXFORD STREET BROWSERS: Carols for Shoppers
St James's Piccadilly has yet to announce its December programme, but the month is reliably packed with great events. Thanks to its central positioning by Jermyn Street, St James's Piccadilly is an easy pit stop for those who want to inject some traditional carol singing into an evening of last-minute Christmas shopping. This is where its yearly 'carols for shoppers' comes in. It shouldn't be the only service you do this year, but it will be fun, bustling, and rustling with shopping bags. While inside, don't forget to gaze up at its stunning Christopher Wren-designed gallery. Through the clear glass windows you can see the tops of double-deckers sailing by – it's a very London church.
When: 17 December, 5:30PM
Where: St James's Piccadilly, 197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL
ANIMAL LOVERS: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home Christmas Carol Concert
Head to St Luke's church for the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home Christmas Carol Concert. Award-winning soprano Katie Marshall joins the concert as a special guest and the Collegium Musicum of London Chamber Choir are also performing unaccompanied choral arrangements. Guests will also be treated to a very special guard of honour by some of the home’s beloved dogs. Don’t leave without enjoying a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and remember to take home a Pet Pavillion goodie bag for your furry friends at home.
When: 5 & 13 December 2019, 7:00pm
Where: St Luke's Church, Sydney Street, Chelsea, London SW3 6NH
Cost: £20 - £30
SEASONAL SPLENDOUR: Cancer Research UK's carol concert
The beautiful mid-City setting of St. Paul's plays host to a star-studded charity concert this Christmas. Expect readings from actors Dominic West, Helen George and Emily Watson, plus a chance to rest your voice while St Paul's Cathedral Choir, the Band of the Welsh Guard and various well-known soloists take charge. This is one of Cancer Research UK's most important yearly fundraising events and with ticket prices pitched in an appealing arc, it looks set to be wonderful.
When: 10 December, 7PM
Where: St. Paul's Cathedral, St Paul's Churchyard, London EC4M 8AD
Cost: £10 – £125
(ANOTHER) FEATURING JOANNA LUMLEY: Kids for Kids, Candlelit Christmas Concert
Another starry concert in the heart of Belgravia is being hosted by the enigmatic Joanna Lumley OBE. The Kids for Kids Candlelit Christmas Concert also features celebrity guest readers Miriam Margolyes, Barry Cryer, Timothy West and Lord Cope of Berkeley. Kids for Kids, founded in 2001, provides aid to children in the rural villages of Darfur, Sudan. At this fundraising event, Thames Fanfare Brass and the choirs of Queen's Gate School will charm your ears. The bonus (apart from Lumley, of course): mulled wine and mince pies at the end are included in your ticket.
When: 5 December, 7PM
Where: St. Peter's Church, Eaton Square, London SW1W 9AL
SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT: Gospel Carol Concert
Embrace the festive spirit singing upbeat takes on your favourite carols with help from the IDMC Gospel Choir, who have collaborated with the likes of Michael Bublé and Lukas Graham in the past. With sing-alongs, a brass band quartet and vibrant gospel solos, audience members are in for a magical and uplifting evening. All proceeds from the concert go to Feed the Minds, a charity supporting people living in some of the poorest communities around the world.
When: 11 December, 7:30PM - 9PM
Where: Wesley’s Chapel, 49 City Rd, London, EC1Y 1AU
Cost: £12 - £14