|Period||20th-century classical music|
Carol Symphony is a collection of four preludes, written by Victor Hely-Hutchinson in 1927.
It had its first performance on 26 September 1929 at a promenade concert at the Queen's Hall which was broadcast live on the BBC's 2LO, with other music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Percy Pitt. It was conducted by the composer.
- The first movement (Allegro energico) is based on O Come All Ye Faithful. It is in the style of a Bach chorale prelude.
- The second movement is a scherzo (Allegro molto moderato) on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, similar to the Russian Balakirev compositions.
- The third movement (Andante quasi lento e cantabile) is a slow movement whose outer sections are based on the Coventry Carol, with a central interlude on The First Nowell.
- The finale (Allegro energico come prima) recapitulates material from the first movement, and also uses Here We Come A-Wassailing before concluding with a re-statement of O Come All Ye Faithful similar to a style of Charles Villiers Stanford in a fugal structure.
Usage for theme music
Two sections from the First Noël section were used for the 1943 Children's Hour adaptation and the opening and closing titles of the 1984 BBC of John Masefield's The Box of Delights. It featured a recording conducted by Barry Rose in 1966 of the Pro Arte Orchestra at Guildford Cathedral. During World War II, the book had been adapted for radio on the BBC's Children's Hour, and Hely-Hutchinson's same music had been used. Prof Hely-Hutchinson later became the BBC's Director of Music, in 1944, until his death in 1947.
For many people who grew up listening to radio Children's Hour programmes, the haunting harp theme in the Symphony as the First Noel motif starts is as magically evocative of the spirit of Christmas as is the lone chorister who starts to sing Once in Royal David's City at the beginning of the King's College, Cambridge Festival of Lessons and Carols.
During the 1940-50s, the first movement was used to assist tuning into the BBC's Home Service station before the start of the morning transmission during the Christmas period.
- Metropole Symphony Orchestra, Dolf van der Linden (conductor) recorded by Paxton Records (LPT 1002)
- Pro-Arte Orchestra, Barry Rose at Guildford Cathedral recorded by EMI in 1966 (HMV Classics and EMI)
- City of Prague Symphony Orchestra, Gavin Sutherland recorded by Naxos (NA 7099)