Christmas carol concerts: London sing-alongs to book in 2020
From majestic performances in stunning settings to the concerts to stream from home, we round up the best Christmas carol concerts London has to offer
Carol concerts are going to look a little different this year, either taking place in socially distanced venues or being made available to stream from home. But rest assured, all efforts are being made to make them every bit as magical.
Whether you’re an aspiring chorister or someone who rarely warbles outside the shower, there’s no better place than London (or indeed your sofa) to welcome the season with song. The capital offers an enormous array of carol services throughout December – here’s our pick of the best.
CLASSIC: Advent Season at St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral is going ahead with both live and virtual services this festive season. Its Christmas schedule is full of concerts and events, culminating in the cathedral’s world-famous carol services on 23 and 24 December. Ordinarily, 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. This year, there will be timed entry slots (and presumably less queuing) for those who manage to snap up a free ticket (which this year is essential for admittance). Those who don’t, fear not – the whole service is streamed live on a screen in Paternoster Square next to the cathedral too.
When: Wednesday 23 & Thursday 24 December, 4pm - 5:10pm
Where: St Paul's Cathedral, London EC4M 8AD
Cost: Free but ticketed, click here to register
RIVERSIDE RENDITIONS: Southwark Cathedral Carol Service
Stretched to three nights in order to house a keen audience of socially distanced would-be carol singers, Southwark Cathedral's candlelit carol concert is going ahead this year, but with audiences advised to listen to the cathedral's choir rather than join in themselves. Advanced registration is essential. Southwark Cathedral Choir's annual Christmas carol concert, sung by the boys and men of the Cathedral Choir, is also taking place this year (18 December, 7:30pm, Tickets: £10 - £15).
When: Sunday 20 - Tuesday 22 December, 6pm - 7pm (audiences must be seated by 5:30pm)
Where: Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, London SE1 9DA
Cost: Free but ticketed, click here to register
ON A GRAND SCALE: Carols at the Royal Albert Hall
The largest Christmas carol concert (or series of concerts) to go ahead this year in London is taking place over six nights and 11 performances at The Royal Albert Hall. The venue is able to seat 1,000 socially distanced audience members (a fifth of its usual capacity) and as such, in-person tickets are extremely limited – and expensive. Thankfully, the concert is also available to stream from home between Sunday 20 December and Sunday 31 January for £16 per device. Book to join the Royal Choral Society and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain in singing world-famous carols, accompanied by the the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Richard Cooke.
When: Friday 18 - Wednesday 23 December, 1:30pm & 7:30pm
Where: Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore, South Kensington, London SW7 2AP
Cost: £57.50 - £399
FAMILY FESTIVITIES: A trio of Christmas concerts from St Martin-in-the-Fields
St Martin-in-the-Fields' hour-long carol services are a great option for young children with short attention spans. Ordinarily, the atmospheric church, which has hosted classical concerts for over 250 years, offers carols by candlelight and a side of child-friendly entertainment. This year, it's moved its offering online. Look forward to a trio of concerts: Carols for Christmas, Festive Family Carols, and a Baroque Christmas Celebration, each of which features Christmas classics led by the church's vocal ensemble St Martin’s Voices and, once purchased, can be watched and rewatched between now and Thursday 31 December.
When: Until Thursday 31 December, any time
Where: Stream from home via St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, London WC2N 4JJ
A ROYAL ADDRESS: Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals' Virtually Christmas
No belting out carols in Chelsea's majestic St Luke's Church followed by mulled wine and mince pies this year, but Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals are still bringing their patients, NHS workers and supporters together for a Christmas service, just in the online sphere. Look forward to a reading from Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie and a guest appearance from Welsh actress Dame Siân Phillips, plus a chance to sing along to your favourite carols from home. Proceeds go towards the hospitals' Life In Focus and Lifeline Lab appeals.
When: Thursday 17 December, 7:30pm
FEATURING LEONA LEWIS: Childline’s Merry Little Christmas Concert
The NSPCC is hosting its annual Christmas concert online this year, with all proceeds going towards children’s counselling service Childline. Look forward to a star-studded line up including a performance from X Factor winner Leona Lewis, and guest appearances from actor Martin Freeman and former Spice Girl Geri Horner. The event is being hosted by BBC presenter Ore Oduba.
When: Thursday 10 December, 7pm
Cost: £20 general admission / £45 including a VIP bundle of Christmas treats delivered to your door
FEATURING JOANNA LUMLEY AND MIRIAM MARGOLYES: Kids for Kids, Candlelit Christmas Concert
Now in its 20th year, the annual Kids for Kids Candlelit Christmas Concert is being hosted online for the first time, but the line-up is no less starry. Hosted once again by by the enigmatic Joanna Lumley OBE, the concert also features celebrity guest readings from Miriam Margolyes, Julia Etchingham, Timothy West and Lord Cope of Berkeley, while virtual audiences can sing along to a performance from the choirs of Queen's Gate School. Founded in 2001, Kids for Kids provides aid to children in the rural villages of Darfur, Sudan.
When: Wednesday 2 December, 7pm - 8:30pm
MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Place2Be’s virtual carol concert
Children’s mental health charity Place2Be is hosting a virtual Christmas carol concert with the help of several famous faces. Author Sophie Dahl, award-winning actor Damian Lewis and comedian Ben Miller are among those giving readings, while the carols are being led by soprano Laura Wright, together with the St Marylebone Parish choir. Join in for the chance to sing along and to win a number of exciting prizes. Proceeds raised will be used to support the charity’s important work.
When: Thursday 3 December, 6:30pm
ACTORS FOR CHARITY: We Need A Little Christmas
Denise Welch hosts a starry cast of performers at this virtual carol concert, in aid of charities Shelter and Crisis at Christmas. Filmed live at St Paul’s Church in London’s Covent Garden (aka the Actors’ Church), ‘We Need A Little Christmas’ features performances and readings from: Dame Maureen Lipman, Simon Callow, Kevin Clifton, Sheila Ferguson, Jodie Prenger, Brian Conley, the cast of A Christmas Carol – The Musical, the West End Gospel Choir and more. Tune in to watch the stars sing and show your support for two very important causes.
When: Sunday 20 December - Friday 1 January 2021
Cost: £20 for a single ticket / £30 for a family one
FEATURING CAREY MULLIGAN: Alzheimer’s Society’s Virtual Carols at Christmas
Alzheimer’s Society is hosting a virtual carol concert on 17 December, hosted by Bafta award-winning actor and Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador, Carey Mulligan. Join the charity’s choir in singing along to a selection of the season’s best-loved carols, and listen out for readings from other special guests.
When: Thursday 17 December, 6:30pm
Cost: Free, but donations welcome
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Action for Children’s Starry Night
Hosted by Channel 4 News' Jon Snow, Action for Children’s Starry Night aims to bring an evening of Christmas carols, entertainment and festive cheer into homes across the UK. In addition to carols sung by The Epiphoni Consort, listen to festive family-friendly readings from TV stars Angellica Bell and Nadia Sawalha, comedy from Jessica Hynes, and enjoy appearances from special guests including Leona Lewis, Liam Gallagher and Call the Midwife's Jenny Agutter OBE. Proceeds go towards helping ensure children and young people have a hot meal, a present or a safe place to sleep this Christmas.
When: Tuesday 8 December, 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Cost: £10 per household
NAUTICAL: Carol services in the Old Royal Naval College's Chapel of St Peter and St Paul
The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich is hosting virtual carol concerts on Tuesday 1 and Friday 4 December, which will be available to stream live or watch later on the venue's Facebook and YouTube. The virtual concerts are being followed by in-person ones on Saturday 12, Sunday 13 & Monday 14 December, which will also be broadcast on the Old Royal Naval College’s Facebook and YouTube pages.
When: Tuesday 1 - Monday 14 December
Where: Old Royal Naval College, King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9NN