Top 10 Free Carol Services/Concerts

I love listening to carol singing at Christmas and normally try to visit a couple of lunchtime services before finishing with the lighting of the tree in my local church in Highams Park on Christmas Eve.

With this in mind I’ve compiled a Top Ten of Free Carol Services/Concerts in Central London. They are more or less in date order. This list is not exhaustive so if you know of any other ones please put in the comments below.  

There is also of course the free Celebration of Christmas concert at St Paul's on 15th December at 6.30pm with celebrity readers. However from past experience this involves a lot of queueing in the cold to ensure a reasonable seat otherwise you end up towards the back of the cathedral with no view at all plus a freezing cold draught coming in so wear your thermals! I now prefer a smaller venue where you can actually see what's going on and feel more involved.

1.  Trafalgar Square

Each night from now until 22nd December there will be carol singing around the tree in Trafalgar Square by various choirs from 5 until 9pm each choir having an hour slot. 

2.  St Paul’s Covent Garden 

Known as the Actors' Church, St Paul's designed by Inigo Jones is worth visiting anyway to see the amazing amount of memorials inside the church to playwrights, actors and others connected with the entertainment industry. They also have their own theatre company Iris.

Sunday 11th December at 6pm Advent Carols with the choir of St Paul’s.
Sunday 18th December at 3.30pm Nine Lessons and Carols by Candlelight, sung by The Friends' Musick in period costume, with readings by actors from the King James Bible.

3. Temple Church 

Since the publication of the Da Vinci Code the Temple Church now charges £3 entrance. However I am assuming (please correct me if I'm wrong) that if you visit a carol service you can enter for free. 

Tuesday 13th December at 1.15-1.45pm Christmas Carol Sing-along, an informal half-hour of carol singing; requests will be taken! 
Friday 16th December at 1.10pm Britten: A Ceremony of Carols sung by The Temple Singers.

4.  St Stephen's Walbrook 

Wren's try-out for the dome of St Paul's St Stephen's Walbrook is worth visiting anyway. At the moment there is also a temporary view of the church to be had across the Walbrook Square building site from Cannon Street. 

Wednesday 14th December at 6.30pm  St Stephen Parish Carols for the Business Community with the choir of St Stephen Walbrook.

5. St Bartholomew the Great

The Priory Church was founded in AD 1123 as part of a monastery of Augustinian Canons but the church is probably more famous amongst the general public for having featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Another church which I really should have visited; each time I'm on a guided tour of the area it goes to the top of my "to visit" list. Am hoping to attend one of these carol services which means I can hopefully save the £4 entrance fee. There is a cafe here too. 

Thursday 15th December at 6.00 pm A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols
Sunday 18th December at 6.30 pm A Service of Nine Lessons and Carols
Tuesday 20th December at 6.00 pm A Service of Readings and Carols 

6. All Hallows by the Tower

The oldest church in the City of London and one which I am ashamed to say I haven't visited even though I worked opposite it for years (1990-1996) but that was before I was so interested in London and its history. I've just discovered they have a new cafe which might prove the carrot to get me there but their carol services look very tempting too. 

Thursday 15th December at 6pm Traditional Carols by Candlelight with carols, stories and seasonal refreshments.
Sunday 18th December at 4pm Festival of Lessons and Carols.
Monday 19th December at 6pm Noël, Noël, Chantons Noël! pour les Francophiles et leurs amis.

7.  St James's the Less

Built by G E Street who went on to build the Royal Courts of Justice which eventually unfortunately killed him. The church's website isn't working at the moment but they do have a Facebook group which is kept up-to-date.

Sunday 18th December at 6pm Candlelit carol service followed by mulled wine and mince pies.

8. St James's Piccadilly 

One of only two Wren churches outside the City of London, the other being St Clement Danes, St James's Piccadilly is well worth visiting. Wren built it so that all 2000 people in the congregation could see and hear the preacher. 

Tuesday 20th December at 5.30pm Carols for Shoppers: traditional carols with readings and music from the Vigala Singers - mince pies and mulled wine served afterwards.
Not carols but on Wednesday 21st December at 1.10pm  The Askew Sisters will sing traditional English folk music and songs with a festive feel. 

9. St Bride's Church 

The journalists' church and also (it is said) its spire is the basis for the design of the wedding cake. Worth visiting the crypt too and/or going on one of their guided tours. 

Wednesday 21st December at 12.00pm and 5pm - Carols for Fleet Street 

10. St Dunstans in the West 

This is one of my favourite churches to visit for their regular Wednesday recitals although I still haven't got the hang of how to open the doors on the end of the pews. 

Wednesday 21st December at 1.15pm Guild Church Carol Service and Civic Procession Sung by Chantage their local choir. I went last year and it was very good.

I hope the above is useful and I must get some of these into my own diary.  Maybe see you there!

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End. 
Details of all her walks are listed here and upcoming public walks are here.

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