London's loveliest Christmas carol concerts 2017
Culture Whisper select the best Christmas carol concerts London has on offer, from majestic performances in stunning settings to intimate local gatherings
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, Westminster Abbey, 24 December 2017, 4pm
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 get ready to book quickly. Tickets will be available to book in November in a series of timeslots. Click here for the website.
TRADITIONAL: Carols by Candlelight, Royal Albert Hall, SW7 2AP various dates from 16 December inc. Christmas Eve, 7pm, 2017
The Royal Albert Hall welcomes the Mozart Festival Chorus and Orchestra to the stage for Christmas music by candlelight in full 18th-century costume. They’ll perform seasonal pieces such as Corelli’s Christmas Concerto and Rutter's The Twelve Days of Christmas plus pieces from Handel's Messiah. There'll be traditional readings by Wombles narrator Bernard Cribbins, and plenty of opportunity for the 5,000-strong audience to add their voices during traditional singalong carols. If you rather the concert was all about you, there's a series of last-night-of-the-Proms-style singalong concerts too as part of the Royal Albert Halls full Christmas festival programme.
FAMILY FESTIVITIES: Festive Family Carols by Candlelight, St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, 7:30pm 23 December 2017
If you’d like to take your kids a-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, will sing a whole host of Christmas classics inviting everyone to join in, as well as entertaining the crowd. This vibrant church has hosted classical concerts for over 250 years and this special concert will be lit by candles.
£8 - £16
RIVERSIDE CATHEDRAL: Christmas Carol Concert Southwark Cathedral, 12 December 2017, 7:30pm
This charming 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, book now to avoid disappointment.
£10 - £32
GOOD CAUSE: The Lullaby Trust's Carols by Candlelight, St James' Church, Clerkenwell, 5 December 2017, 6:45pm
Listen to the choirs of Sing Gospel and the award-winning St Joseph's School. Join in for old favourites in between festive readings and enjoy visiting St James' Church Clerkenwell for the Lullaby Trust's Carols by Candlelight. Readers will include Queen Anne actress Romola Garai and The Crown and Downtown Abbey star Harry Hadden-Paton. Sit bathed in candlelight under the beautiful modern chandelier, made by Tom Dixon for Clerkenwell Design Week as you listen to the service. Proceeds from this concert go to bereavement support and research relating to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
£10 - £20
THE WAY TO WESTMINSTER: Carol Concert, Westminster Cathedral, 16 and 17 December, 7:30pm
Westminster Cathedral is a simply stunning building, oft-overlooked in Victoria. White stone and red brickwork make up its patterned neo-Byzantine exterior. The interior is massive and majestic and the perfect setting for a carol service of large proportions. This year, go along to the Westminster Cathedral Choir's Christmas Celebration, with currently undisclosed celebrity guest readers and traditional music.
DOG LOVERS: Battersea Dogs' and Cats' Home Christmas Carol Concert, St Luke's Church, Sydney Street, Chelsea, 4 December at 7pm
Head to St Luke's church for the Battersea Dogs' and Cat's Home Christmas Carol Concert. With a 'doggy guard of honour' made up of residents of the charity, you can't take your own pets.. but with these canine ambassadors joining in with the chorus, you don't need to. A child friendly concert featuring all the favourites. All together, now: A-dog in a manger, no crib for a bed.
OXFORD STREET CASUALTIES: Carols for Shoppers, St James's Piccadilly, 197 Picadilly, W1J 9LL, 19 December, 5:30pm
It's hard to pick from St James's Piccadilly's programme of Christmas events. But its central position by Jermyn Street great for a stop in and a rest from the rages of present-panic and this is where its special '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. When you're inside, look up at its stunning gallery, a Christopher Wren design.Through the clear glass windows you can see the tops of double-deckers sailing by – it's a very London church.
KIDS FOR KIDS: Candlelit Christmas Concert, St Peter’s Eaton Square, London, SW1W 9AL, 30 November, 7pm
Celebrities join a brass band and school choir to create a lovely loud charity carol concert in Belgravia. St Peter's is a beautiful classical style church with an airy, spacious interior – a good thing, as it's bound to be full to the brim with carollers. The event is run by Kids for Kids, the charity aiding children in Darfur, Western Sudan, where conflict and poverty have impacted thousands of families. Joanna Lumley is patron of the charity and will be there to sing along, as will actress Miriam Margolyes, Lord Cope and Timothy West. Of course, there's mulled wine afterwards.
FURTHER AFIELD: Royal Holloway Lessons and Carols Service, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, TW20 0EX, 6pm 2 December 2017
This extraordinary gilded chapel at Royal Holloway, part of the University of London, is a magical setting for a traditional lessons and carol service. But it's very popular and you'll absolutely need to pre-book. Tickets are released on Wednesday 1 November at 9am and you may book up to a maximum of four. Tickets will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
…AND IF YOU ONLY DO ONE: Advent Season at St Paul’s Cathedral, London EC4M 8AD, 4pm, 23 & 24 December 2017
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 23rd and 24th 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.
Free and not ticketed, doors open one hour before