Thursday 22 November 2012

Confessions of an eBay Trader #1: A Festival of Lessons and Carols

So there was I, keying in today’s offering for one-for-every-fair-and-rainy-day, my little eBay trading post. This is what I typed:

"KING’S COLLEGE CHAPEL A Festival of Lessons & Carols OVAL ARGO 1959 orig RG 190 mono 

On offer is the 1959 LP A FESTIVAL OF LESSONS AND CAROLS as sung on CHRISTMAS EVE, 1958 in KING’S COLLEGE CHAPEL, CAMBRIDGE, directed by DAVID WILLCOCKS w SIMON PRESTON, organ.  On ARGO, catalogue number RG 190." 
I scrupulously noted the details beloved by record collectors: 
"This is the FIRST PRESSING mono release, with the FULLY LAMINATED FLIPBACK THIN ‘CLARIFOIL’ SLEEVE, and the 1ST LABEL ARGO - dark blue, with the Argo motif enclosed in an OVAL design with a groove inside the perimeter." 
The record was playing as I wrote, “ From the arresting opening, a lonely boy chorister emerging from silence with a hushed ‘Once in Royal David’s City’, it’s evident that this is the ultimate Christmas record, and trounces Phil Spector’s Christmas Gift to You. In comparison, Wizzard and Slade are barbarians.”

I was warming to my task now, soaking up the atmosphere as the sweet little angels of King’s College Choir chirruped ‘I Saw Three Ships’: “Redolent of dusty chapels, dreaming spires, Choral Scholars in white altar gowns.” Now came a Lesson, a reading from St Luke. “The establishment at prayer,” I typed. Then another carol, ‘Gabriel’s Message.’ I deleted the previous line and entered: “A dream vision of Christmas from the dream city of Cambridge, preserved in aspic from Christmas Eve, 1958.” I pondered the significance of the date. At the time of recording, I was precisely two days old. 
Then I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll give them Sgt Pepper instead,” and hoped I wasn’t being disloyal to the cause of women bishops.  


  1. Have it in mind that Matthew Arnold coined the phrase "dreaming spires" for the other one: Oxford. Cambridge is a good place to be awake in: try the Spooky Men's Chorale, boo!


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