Let the Carols Ring
Georgia Barnes (music) and Olivia Bell (lyrics)

LMP have commissioned a new carol for Christmas 2021 from young local composer Georgia Barnes. It will be premiered on Friday 10 December 2021 at St John the Evangelist in Upper Norwood, during the LMP’s annual Christmas concert, and will be repeated at concerts at St Mary’s Church, Putney, on 11 December and Fairfield Halls on 18 December.

Georgia introduces her carol here:

‘Let the Carols Ring’ is a new commission for choir, harp and string quintet with text from poet and soprano Olivia Bell. When we were collaborating on this work, we knew we wanted the piece to feel relevant, refreshing and in context with the positive changes in the world. Last Christmas was bleak in many ways – community singing was discouraged and gatherings like concerts were not permitted. I sang in a church choir during Christmas 2020, and, whilst it was a pleasure to be able to sing professionally during this period, we missed the sense of community that made seasonal music vibrant and cheerful. We wanted to relate Let the Carols Ring to Christmas of 2021, igniting the reunion of loved ones and the reawakening of shared musical experiences.

My approach to writing this piece was somewhat challenging, particularly due to composing it during August’s thirty-degree heat! I had various influences; Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Holst’s In the Bleak Midwinter and Tavener’s traditional vocal writing. Within these, I adored the subtle beauty of the harp writing and the stripped back approach of the vocal lines. ‘Let the Carols Ring’ has a poignant opening; a repeated, simple harmony shared between the harp and strings. This accompanies an unembellished vocal line. Later in the piece when the carols begin to ring, the rhythms and melody are given life and energy – I tried to give a contemporary Errollyn Wallen-esque touch.

I remember the joy of shuffling to the cathedral to sing A Ceremony of Carols with my school choir – hundreds of girls filling up train carriages and coaches, hugging mugs of hot chocolate whilst we waited for the service to start. We made our greatest efforts to sing the carols vivaciously and sweetly, to feel instrumental in upholding the many joyous traditions of Advent. ‘Let the Carols Ring’ enjoys three performances over the Christmas period: St John’s Church in Upper Norwood on the 10th December, St Mary’s Church in Putney on the 11th, and Fairfield Halls in Croydon on the 18th. I am extremely excited to be sharing this piece in all three venues. My great-grandmother worked as the assistant to the director at Fairfield Halls in the 1970s, and we have spent many years as a family watching pantomimes and concerts in the same venue. Whilst we haven’t been able to spend any time together over the past year, it will be really special for me to be able to write in a place with so much local, family history.

Georgia Barnes

Olivia Bell, the lyricist said:

It struck me that there were many similarities between lockdown and Advent – the quiet acceptance of waiting for something much longed for, the preparation for something greater to come; the reaching once more back to the light. Although this carol references Christmas 2020, where households were unable to share festivities with one another due to the coronavirus epidemic, it also speaks more broadly of the wait for the coming of Christ, and the radiant joy and cheer that accompanies the true Christmas spirit – letting the carols, once more, ring’.