Judith Weir has been announced as this year’s commissioned composer for King’s College Cambridge’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.
The tradition of commissioning a new carol for each service was begun by the present director, Stephen Cleobury, in 1983. This will be his last commission before his retirement next year.
There is a certain circularity in the choice of Weir—she is an alumna of King’s and composed an anthem in 1985, near the beginning of Cleobury’s time at the Chapel. This makes her one of only two composers, the other being Richard Rodney Bennett (1986 and 1999), to have been commissioned twice. Her carol O Mercy Divine, will be written for choir and cello.
Speaking about the selection of Weir, Cleobury said:
“I am delighted that Judith has accepted the College’s invitation to compose a carol for this very special year which sees the 100th anniversary of A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. A previous commission from Judith in the series, Illuminare, Jerusalem, was written for the same service in 1985 and has come to be regarded as one of the finest contemporary carols of recent times. We are proud to count Judith among our many prestigious alumni, and it is a personal delight to have been able to ask her to write this carol for my last Christmas here at King’s.”
Judith Weir’s, Illuminare Jerusalem, performed by King’s in 2010