For many people Christmas just isn’t the same without carols. Whilst some opt for Mariah Carey, Shane McGowan or even LadBaby (did he really get five Christmas number ones?!), others prefer slightly more traditional fare.

In a world where community singing is on the decline, churches across Cumbria and the nation were filled with people of all faiths and none singing out the old Christmas favourites from ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ to ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’.

I was one of their number, singing the Christmas services as a lay clerk in the choir of Carlisle Cathedral.

A lay clerk is normally an adult singer who sings one of the three lower parts of the choir (alto, tenor or bass) whilst the top line is sung by either the girls or the boys of the choir.

The Christmas schedule for us included two gala concerts, two services of lessons and carols, midnight mass and mass on Christmas morning, alongside other regular services in the cathedral.

Growing up in the singing world, an old hand once said to me that I will know when I have matured as I’ll prefer singing at Easter than Christmas.

It appears, however, that I’ve still got a way to go to reach maturity as Christmas is still is the most wonderful time of year, for me.

Singing the same old favourites four or five times in a week may seem tedious to some (I’ve often had the same thought halfway through verse five of ‘See Amid the Winter Snow’), but these carols often play an important role within someone’s Christmas and that festive joy is infectious in the building.

So many people say after the services ‘that made my Christmas’ or ‘my Christmas doesn’t start till I hear the choir’ and that makes everything worthwhile.

Christmas for the cathedral choir is the culmination of six weeks of hard work. The day-to-day services of the cathedral stop for no man, meaning that the children have to rehearse double the amount of music they normal would have to.

It is testament to their willingness to learn, their commitment and dedication that enables the choir to reach the soaring heights that they we are able obtain.

Choirs have the ability to reach people on a different level to normal speech, and are able to speak to people of all faiths and none in a variety of different settings, whether that be a grand church service or a simple rehearsal in a village hall. 

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The English choral tradition is one of this country’s most treasured cultural institutions and something I, personally, take great pride in.

On any given day in most English cities in, one can find world class music being made at the service of evensong.

The tradition is particularly strong at Carlisle Cathedral with seven choral services sung throughout the week but to paraphrase a popular saying, a choir is for life, not just for Christmas.