Christmas isn't completely cancelled in London this year, but it is slimmed down, and liable to be amended at short notice. That applies to festive carol concerts too — normally London in December is replete with special concerts and services, many of which raise money for charity. This year, there are significantly fewer, but read on for where you can get your dose of ding-dong-merrily-on-high (and donate to charity) in 2020.
At time of writing, we're still awaiting confirmation of plans from the larger venues, including St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, so keep checking back. We do know that there won't be any organised carol performances under the Trafalgar Square tree.
Christmas carol concerts 2020 at the Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall normally offers a jam-packed December programme, with festive concerts practically every night. This year, there are still five fantastic concert options to choose from, plus the Birmingham Royal Baller is back with The Nutcracker.
Traditionalists are best served by Carols at the Royal Albert Hall, running for five afternoon and six evening performances, blending modern and traditional music, and featuring the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Choral Society, and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.
Younger music fans can get their fix of festive tunes at My Christmas Orchestral Adventure, aimed at age 3+ and combining live music with an enchanting festive tale.
Christmas at the Royal Albert Hall, 9 December 2020-2 January 2021. Fewer seats than normal available due to social distancing.
Christmas carol services 2020 at St Martin-in-the-Fields
Trafalgar Square church St Martin-in-the-Fields is embracing the best of both worlds this year, by hosting five socially-distanced live carol concerts, and five virtual concerts to be streamed at home.
The live concerts are each limited to 100 visitors due to social distancing rules. Full details are yet to be announced, but will include A Christmas Celebration with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on Friday 18 December. See below for details of the virtual concerts.
Christmas at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Details TBC.
Christmas carols at Fulham Palace
As part of its Christmas Fair Weekend, Fulham Palace hosts two afternoon Carols in the Courtyard events. Enjoy performances by All Saints Church choir, with mulled wine, hot chocolate, gingerbread and mince pies available to buy to enjoy while you watch. It's free, though donations to the Friends of Fulham Palace are welcome, and numbers are limited, so arrive in plenty of time to get your spot.
A Starry Night from Lambeth Palace
Lambeth Palace is giving you the choice of attending A Starry Night in person, or streaming it online. Either way, see world-class performers including the English National Opera Choir, the Male London Welsh Rugby Choir, clarinettist Emma Johnson OBE, and soprano singer Alexandra Kennedy tackling festive favourites, all in the stunning palace grounds. If you're attending in person, note that it's an outdoor event, so wrap up warm.
Money raised from both live ticket sales and streaming goes to Ronald McDonald House Charities UK.
A Starry Night from Lambeth Palace, 8 December 2020. Tickets to attend in person are £25, or the livestream can be accessed for a donation.
A Colla Voce Christmas by Candlelight
The Colla Voce Singers take over St Gabriel's Church in Pimlico for a one-night-only candlelit concert. Hear them perform well-known Christmas music and little-known pieces from around the world. t
A Colla Voce Christmas, 12 December. Tickets £15.
Online and virtual Christmas carol services
- The choir of St. Paul’s Knightsbridge headline the church's carol concert, which is being streamed online this year. Donation and registration required. 1 December.
- Charity Kids for Kids, which supports children in Sudan, is taking its magical candlelit Christmas concert online for the first time. Light a candle and watch from home as the Queen's Gate School Choir perform festive hymns, and celebrities give readings. Minimum donation £10. 2 December.
- Homelessness charity Shelter hosts a virtual carol concert which anyone can join to offer solidarity with families facing homelessness. It's streamed from St Martin-in-the-Fields and includes some famous faces as well as readings and songs. Donations encouraged. 3 December.
- As mentioned above, A Starry Night from Lambeth Palace is available to livestream for anyone unable to attend in person, with money raised going to Ronald McDonald House Charities UK. 8 December.
- St Martin-in-the-Fields' online concerts (mentioned above) vary from other virtual concerts, in that they're prerecorded rather than live. Buy them online from October, ready to be streamed from 1 December, as a time which suits you. Throughout December.