A Tudor Christmas by Candlelight
About this event
We might assume that our modern Christmas owes much to the Victorians. In fact, as historians Alison Weir and Siobhan Clarke reveal, many of our favourite Christmas traditions date back much further.
Carol-singing, present-giving, mulled wine and mince pies were all just as popular in Tudor times, and even Father Christmas and roast turkey dinners have their origins in this period. The Tudor Christmas was a time of feasting, revelry and merrymaking, a twelve-day-long festival, over which the Lord of Misrule held sway, and convention was thrown to the winds.
The festival was so beloved by English people that Christmas traditions survived remarkably unchanged in this age of tumultuous religious upheaval. This evening will fascinate anyone with an interest in Tudor life - and anyone who loves Christmas.
This in-person only event will feature festive music from the period sung by the Cathedral Merbecke Choir, and illustrations to set the historical scene for Christmas.
The Cathedral will be bathed in candlelight as it would have been in the 15th and 16th century to add to the atmosphere.
With mulled wine or soft drink and mince pies included in the ticket price, if you love Tudor history then this event is not to be missed.
This event is in-person only and won't be streamed or recorded. The event will take place in the Cathedral nave and doors will open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.
Alison Weir is a bestselling historical novelist of Tudor fiction, and the leading female historian in the United Kingdom. She has published more than thirty books, including many leading works of non-fiction, and has sold over three million copies worldwide. Her novels include the Tudor Rose trilogy, which spans three generations of history’s most iconic family – the Tudors, and the highly acclaimed Six Tudor Queens series about the wives of Henry VIII, all of which were Sunday Times bestsellers. Alison is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.
Siobhan Clarke has a BA in modern history and has worked for Historic Royal Palaces for twenty years. She has also delivered lectures for the National Trust and the British Museum. Siobhan has written for BBC History Magazine and All About History and featured on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour and PBS’s Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace.
The Merbecke Choir is a group of around 25-30 singers who sing a wide range of music to a high standard. The choir is mostly made up of people in their twenties and thirties, who meet to rehearse every Tuesday during term time. It is a regular contributor to the liturgy at Southwark Cathedral, notably at the monthly service of Compline and Eucharistic Devotions. It also performs regular concerts, usually one a term, has toured abroad and in the UK and has released a CD, Under the Shadow of Thy Wings.
In 2003, Southwark Cathedral founded the Merbecke Choir to be a place for boys and girls who left the Cathedral Choirs to explore a wide range of repertoire under expert tuition. The choir has grown since then and has a broad mix of ages and backgrounds, though former Cathedral choristers remain very welcome.
The choir is a staunch supporter of new music, having commissioned several new works, as well as being adept in the performance of Renaissance polyphony. They have performed for HRH Princess Alexandra, the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and contributed to Her Majesty, the Queen’s, Christmas Broadcast recorded at Southwark Cathedral in 2006.
The choir’s current director of music is Emily Elias.
The Choir is named after the Tudor composer, John Merbecke (1510-1585), who composed one of the most popular settings of the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service. Merbecke with three other companions was tried for heresy in 1543 in the Retrochoir at Southwark, which was used for this purpose at the time. He was found guilty and condemned to be burned at the stake. However, his sentence was commuted by Bishop Stephen Gardiner, the then Bishop of Winchester, who decided that as a mere musician Merbecke ‘knew no better‘ and so was released to continue his music making.
Event Organiser is Southwark Cathedral.
Disclaimer: All information was correct when the listing was prepared. Any questions about the event should be directed to the event organiser.