Near Hackney, a way to mark the carolling that in 1914 briefly stopped the terrible killing

Barts14: Nine lessons and carols with a German flavour, St Bartholomew’s church, Smithfield OL9 6AA ©
Nine lessons and Carols: high-church style at St Bartholomew the Great by Smithfield

* UPDATE December 2016: St Bart’s rector Dr Martin Dudley resigned unexpectedly to pursue pesonal interests


THE STORY of the Christmas truce in 1914 is one of the most poignant of the First World War.

The young men sent to fight for Kaiser or King apparently thought instinctively that carol-singing and a football kickabout might be a way to avoid the horrendous consequences of their political leaders’ propagandistic posturing.

How admirable was their naivety. Yet worth commemorating: what’s wrong with a little optimism?

An opportunity to remember, and to wish that the people’s will one day will triumph over the ruling class’s, is presented by a carol service in the City, just south of Hackney.

St Bartholomew the Great, the cathedral-size church at Smithfield OL9 6AA, is presenting “Nine lessons and Carols with a German flavour”.

St Bart's Smithfield London side entrance Feb 2011 ©
St Bart’s: another approach to the ancient church

Expect to hear carols such as the Drei Könige wandern aus Morgenland Cornelius and Stille Nacht, the one sung by Soldaten at the front in Flanders that cold Christmas a century ago (although don’t expect mention of the Christmas truce: current affairs have little currency in the Reverend Dr Martin Dudley’s domain).

Don’t worry if you are, perhaps for seasonal reasons, not on song: under conductor Nigel Short, well known for the choir Tenebrae, the eight-voice professional Priory Church Choir will more than compensate.

Hamish Scott 201214

* Nine lessons and carols with a German flavour, St Bartholomew’s church,  Smithfield OL9 6AA, Tuesday 23 December 2014 at 6pm (arrive early). 

* The main Christmas Carol service, in English, is on Sun 21 December 2014  at 6.30pm (arrive early) and a ceremony of carols will be held on Mon 22 Dec 2014 at 6pm. See website for other carolling.

* All services free, although you will be asked for a donation. Be generous: the near-900-year-old heating costs alone run into thousands of pounds a month.

Barts14: Nine lessons and carols with a German flavour, St Bartholomew’s church, Smithfield OL9 6AA ©
Lights out: after a service at St Bartholomew’s church an acolyte extinguishes the candles

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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