The DCGS diary is always packed with a variety of musical events and as Mr Tansley stated in the first Christmas Choir rehearsal, the Carol Service has always been the choir’s time to shine. As well as giving us the chance to perform in the phenomenal acoustic of St Mary’s Church (Old Amersham), it has traditionally been an opportunity for the school to come together with the local community, with the service marking the start of the festive season for many.

Following the success of the Joint Schools’ Concert in November, the choir had just three weeks to prepare for the service. On top of intensive rehearsals every Thursday after school, we were treated to two days off-timetable to polish off the repertoire that we had been working so hard to perfect. This included condensed versions of the event for Years 7 and 8, who had never experienced it before. These in-school services also offered opportunity for instrumental items, including authentic guitar accompaniment to ‘Stille Nacht’ (‘Silent Night’) and a harp duet (a first for Challoner’s!).

Seven Years of Christmas Choir: having joined the choir in Year 7, these Year 13 boys have sung at six consecutive DCGS Carol Services!

At 7 o’clock on Wednesday evening, the forty choristers stood fidgeting behind the curtain at the back of the church. The anticipatory hum of the audience subsided as the first notes to ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ sounded. As we processed down the aisle with military-like precision, any previously felt nerves quickly settled. An evening of readings (by staff and students alike), prayers and - of course - music followed. With a mix of congregational carols and choral items, favourites such as ‘Gaudete’ and ‘Personent Hodie’ reappeared alongside new arrivals including ‘Past Three O’Clock’, sung by the Girls’ Choir, the Sixth Form Chamber Choir’s ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ and - this year’s standout item - the Sussex Carol.

A key member of the choir, particularly at Christmas, has always been Mr Parkinson, who sadly passed away earlier in August of 2021. Not only a strong bass chorister, he also had a wide variety of other interests, making him a recognisable figure to many, both in and outside school, and a pillar of the Amersham community. Presenting his own show on Radio Christmas: The Big Breakfast Show with Phil Parkinson (87.7 FM, 6-8AM daily), a carol that regularly played during his two hour slot was the Sussex Carol - one of his favourites. In his honour, a new arrangement of the carol has been commissioned from the composer, old Challoner and the carol service’s organist Dr Alexander Flood. The carol was performed for the first time by the DCGS school choir at the service this year. To continue support for the charity radio station, a collection was made at the end following the choir’s grand finale, ‘Sir Christemas’ by Mathias, with all proceeds going directly to Radio Christmas.

Thanks must go to Mr Tansley, Mrs Anstey, Mrs Langdale and the choirs for all their hard work in preparing for the service.