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The Choir of St George’s Chapel, world famous through its royal patronage, is one of this country’s foremost, participating in daily services throughout the year at its Windsor Castle home. Here the choir performs a wide range of music appropriate to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.
At the heart of the Choir’s work is the pattern of daily services throughout the year, for which repertory is drawn from the medieval period to the present day. Special occasions, as well as the major festivals of the church’s year, entail special music. Christmas is a particularly busy season. In addition to its day-to-day work, the Choir gives at least three concerts in Windsor and elsewhere, as well as two carol services, a Midnight Mass, and two services on Christmas Day itself. The music heard here has all featured at one or other of these services and concerts. The brother of actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, Russell, was a chorister in the closing years of Queen Victoria’s reign, and wrote a vivid account of his Christmas experiences in Windsor Castle:
The Castle was at its gayest … and we always liked life better when the Castle was full. The Queen loved to get all her distinguished relations about her … Sometimes they were invited for special occasions, and we used to wonder which king would be given which place in Chapel. Joy was certainly the keynote to our Windsor Christmases; and whereas other schoolboys would be most indignant at being kept from home for the festive season, we wouldn’t have missed a minute of it, nor have had it otherwise.
John Heighway © 2019
In recent years many millions of people will have had the opportunity of seeing St George’s Chapel, the spiritual heart of Windsor Castle, as the Church in which two royal weddings have been solemnized. A vast number of people have entered the Chapel as part of a visit to the Castle. Many who do so are struck by the sheer beauty of the building, its light and delicate architecture drawing the eye upwards beyond our everyday lives and their concerns.
As the Chapel of the Order of the Garter, we aim to celebrate and embody their ideal of service to the nation and to the world. Praying each day for the members of the Order (founded by King Edward III in 1348) both living and departed, we are encouraging those present to live lives inspired by the virtues of service and self-sacrifice.
Moreover, in this most beautiful building each day throughout the Chapel’s history, worship has been offered to almighty God, and music has played a central role in that offering from the earliest days—it still does. This is true of great national services, such as the Service for the Order of the Garter, or the Service of the Royal Maundy. But music offered to the highest possible standard of musicianship and devotion is also a feature of the daily office of evensong, sung six days a week throughout the year, where the Choir sings anthems from a wide repertoire of choral music reflecting the liturgical seasons of the Church. In this recording the Choir performs music appropriate to the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, leading us through the season of anticipation and preparation, to the joyful celebration of the Incarnation, and culminating in the affirmation of Epiphany that the redemption that Christ brings is to the whole world. I very much hope that you enjoy this collection of sacred music brought to you by The Choir of St George’s Chapel, and that in listening you are also brought close to the enduring truths of the Christian faith for which the Chapel has stood for so many hundreds of years.
Martin Poll © 2019