By Caroline Smith
The story of Christmas and its significance for mankind was illuminated recently at Claremont Parish St Thomas the Apostle Church, through an annual evening of carols and readings.
The event – known as The Road to Bethlehem: Nine Readings and Carols in preparation for Christmas – was held on Thursday 7 December, and brought together 300 people from the parish and wider community, to enjoy and take part in singing Christmas songs from around the world.
They were led by St Thomas’ choir, organist Joe Ryan and conductors Jane Courtney and Dr John Kinder.
Dr Kinder said the evening had been a tradition at Claremont Parish for the past nine years, having started in 2008 through the inspiration of choir tenor Tim Burrows, who based it on the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols hosted each year by Cambridge University in England.
“The carols are chosen every year by Tim Burrows, who sings tenor and who created the concept of The Road to Bethlehem,” he said.
“The songs are chosen to narrate the events of Christian salvation, from the fall of mankind to the prophecy of the Messiah and beyond.
“Some carols are very ancient, like the fifth century chant, A Solis Ortus Cardine and some are modern like the Spiritual, Poor Little Jesus.”
This year, the selection of carols included those from medieval France, 19th-century Germany and African American communities in the United States.
Each scripture reading was presented by a member of the parish, while Parish Priest Father Wayne Davis led attendees in an opening and closing prayer.
Dr Kinder added that attendees each received a booklet with lyrics and information from each carol, as well as information about its historical origins.
“The audience enjoys the mix of carols and projected images and always enjoy Tim’s programme notes,” he said.
“Many people have told us that The Road to Bethlehem evening makes them feel that Christmas really is coming.
“The audience feedback is very positive; we get emails and messages from people who are not in the Parish and have come because they have heard or read about it.”