Ceremony of Carols (2010)

Project Summary

GYO began working on Britten’s Ceremony for Carols in September 2009 with music director Hannah Conway and director Karen Gillingham, exploring the themes in the piece and responding with their own interpretations of the music. Designer Bernadette Roberts also responded to the music by interpreting themes and motifs visually and creating with Karen a storyboard that incorporated the company’s ideas.

In the February 2010, GYO spent an intensive week transforming their newly developed storyboard into a staged production. This work is usually performed by choirs standing still with music in hand. The youth company rose to the challenge of learning advanced music by heart, developing characters and creating an original narrative.


Opening monologue
An imagined letter from Britten to his friend Elizabeth Mayer

Arrival portside, people having to leave their homes behind, preparing for a journey. They hope for the future. Britten watches Mary begin her journey.

Wolcum Yole!
A voyage begins, games, excitement, hope.

There is no Rose
In awe of Mary as the Immaculate Conception.

The Yonge Child
The travellers sleep. Britten watches over Mary.

The women on the journey sing a hymn to Mary’s unborn child.

This Little Babe
Mary has her baby, here represented by a dove, who is whisked away because he is so special. Mary panics and tries to find the dove.

The dove returns to Mary, but she knows he will leave her.

In Freezing Winter Night (extract)
The dove suffers but Mary and her fellow travellers must let it go on.

Spring Carol
Rejuvenation – awakening – a new dawn.

Deo Gracias
The travellers prepare for journey’s end.

Celebration of arrival. A new life.

Creative Team

Composer Benjamin Britten
Director Karen Gillingham
Music Director Hannah Conway
Assistant Director Freya Wynn-Jones
Designer Bernadette Roberts
Vocal Animateur Lea Cornthwaite