Sing in exultation: carol service a joyous end to 450th anniversary year

Sing in exultation: carol service a joyous end to 450th anniversary year

Queen Elizabeth’s School drew its 450th anniversary celebrations to a rousing, festive conclusion with its Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in Chipping Barnet parish church.

St John the Baptist Church was packed, with extra chairs having to be brought in to accommodate the unprecedented demand from the congregation made up of Year 7 boys and their parents, current and former staff, Governors and friends of the School.

While the service’s format was traditional, there were some innovative touches from the start, with, for example, an introit, The Little Drummer Boy, that was arranged by three sixth-formers, Isher Jagdev, Arjun Patel and Tharun Dhamodharan. The melody was played first by trumpets at the back of the church, but then by Isher, on the tabla, before the Chamber Choir came in with the vocals.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “With a bit of squeezing, we just about managed to fit everyone in – and I am pleased to say that all were treated to a marvellous service.

“The traditional Bible readings were impressively delivered by pupils of all ages and by senior staff. We also enjoyed the more modern musical pieces and arrangements, as well as the classic carols sung by the congregation.”

After the organ voluntaries – played by Year 8’s Zach Fernandes, Noah Morley, of Year 10, and Joel Swedensky, of Year 12 – the service began in darkness as the introit was sung. The traditional solo descant for the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City gave way to the Barbershop group singing verses two and three; it was only on verse four that the congregation joined in and the church returned to light, creating a dramatic opening to the service.

The other congregational carols were: O come, all ye faithful; God rest you merry, gentlemen; While shepherds watched their flocks by night; Hark! The herald angels sing. The Chamber Choir and Barbershop pieces were by composers from John Rutter to Peter Cornelius.

“All the music was strong, but the upper voices of the Chamber Choir singing New Boy Born, with flutes and piano, and the whole Chamber Choir’s powerful and percussive Nova Nova really stood out, the Headmaster added.

The service culminated in the first-ever congregational signing of And Be It Known – the new School anthem commissioned from international composer Howard Goodall for the School’s thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey on the day of the 450th anniversary, 24th March 2023. The Year 7 boys had been taught the anniversary anthem in advance of the carol service.

“The boys joined in with gusto and were in great voice, helping to make the congregational singing of the anthem a success.

“Overall, the service was innovative and really quite a spectacle, in the best sense – an entirely fitting end to a wonderful anniversary year.”

The service was attended by: Martin Russell, Representative Deputy Lieutenant for the London Borough of Barnet, and the Deputy Mayor of the Borough Cllr Tony Vourou, accompanied by the Deputy Mayoress, Mrs Caroline Vourou.

The service was preceded by a reception for the Headmaster’s guests at Tudor Hall – the home of the School from soon after its founding in 1573 to 1932, when it moved to its present location.