“…if the BBC van can get there, so can you!” – Edward J. Craig, in rehearsal with Grosvenor.

Words which set the tone for much of the week, and what a week it was. The 17th Annual Festival of Nine Lessons with Carols was due to take place in Down Cathedral on the Friday night, and be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio over the Christmas period. Grosvenor met to rehearse in our usual venue on Sunday, drove to Downpatrick on Monday night to allow new members to acclimatise, familiarise and practice singing in the narthex before processing to Once In Royal David’s City.

And then came the snow. And more snow.  In The Bleak Mid-Winter become much more resonant, if not historically accurate. Roads become slippery with ice to the point of impassibility in places, and by Friday it looked like the market for reindeer and sleighs was set to boom.

Enter Stephen Hamill and Rev. Adrian Dorrian to the rescue, who very kindly and graciously offered to host the service in a church in Belfast. And lo, with great use of telephones, e-mail, text messages and social network sites, the message did spread wide throughout the choir and supporters – to go even unto Belfast and hear the choir sing about the Babe born in a manger.

See amid, [then], the winter’s snow,
Grosvenor to St. Peter’s go;
See, a goodly crowd appears,
Bert Tosh and sound engineers.

Hail! and snow? No match for Ed,
He’s got wellies and a spade.
“Sing”, O Grosvenor, “and we’ll hear
you on BBC Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle on Christmas Eve at 6:00 pm and Christmas Day at noon!

The evening was a great success, due in no small part to the determination and efforts of Edward and Stephen, Adrian, the team from BBC Radio Ulster, the choir members for sharing lifts in 4×4’s and the choir’s ever-faithful supporters, for attending and engaging so well with the service and the singing; and, of course, especially to Carolyn for providing life-sustaining tea and coffee for the choir and guests!

We understand of course that many of our supporters were disappointed by not being able to attend due to the difficult or dangerous driving conditions – some choir members weren’t able to get there either. Please do tune in to hear us on the radio, at the times above, or catch us later on BBC iPlayer. Have a look below too for video clips from the service for a sneak peak of the radio broadcast!

The service was to be in memory of Alex Lineham, with a retiring collection towards Marie Curie Cancer Care. Grosvenor will host another event in the new year to support this charity.

Those attending had the chance to obtain the first copies of our new album, Starmade Shadows, a CD sure to be given and received by many this Christmas! It features just under 80 minutes of music for the whole year – music is for life, after all. The snow had lead to production delays, but once again Edward was undeterred, and secured a limited edition advance of 100 copies, which completely sold out on the first evening! More have now been received, thankfully!, and are available to order through our website. You can hear samples here.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the choir put on even more warm clothes (it was -8°C in Belfast!) to sing carols and winter songs in CastleCourt for the Meningitis Research Foundation, on Tuesday 21st December. The choir has supported this charity in the same way over the past few years, bringing festive cheer and music to shoppers in the last week to Christmas. There is something unique about singing to passers-by and to children standing listening words of carols such as Infant Holy, Infant Lowly – “Christ the Babe was born for you!”

Merry Christmas, and see you at a less snowy event in 2011! – JK.

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