The Harvard University Choir will perform the 91st annual Carol Services on Sunday, Dec. 17, at 5 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Church, Harvard Yard.
Ninety years ago, the newly appointed University organist and choirmaster Archibald T. Davison and preacher to the University Edward Caldwell Moore devised the first annual Carol Services for Harvard. The liturgy they devised has survived virtually unchanged: three lessons interspersed with many choir carols, and a few hymns and carols for the congregation, always beginning with “Adeste fideles” sung in Latin. A few additions have been made throughout the years; the singing of “Personent Hodie” became a staple in the years after World War II, and now the singing of “Stille Nacht” (“Silent Night”) is led by the members of the University Choir standing in the side aisles. In the Church dedicated to the memory of those who fell in World War I, this rendition has a special poignance, recalling the occasion during that conflict when the guns fell silent on Christmas Day 1914, and Allied and German forces climbed out of the trenches and gathered in no-man’s land to sing this carol. As they did then, the audience is invited to sing the carol in either language, as seems most comfortable.
This year, the choir sings familiar carols, such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Adeste fideles” as well as anthems such as “Hail Gladdening Light,” Anton Bruckner’s “Ave Maria,” and the traditional English carol, “How far is it to Bethlehem?” The service is free and open to the public.