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This article was published in December 2013. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Leeds Minster Christmas Carol Concert: a star attraction

19 Dec 2013

The second Epilepsy Action Christmas Carol Concert was a shining success last week in Leeds UK, including seasonal readings, festive songs and the chance to remember missing loved ones. Peter Fox describes the event, which raised awareness and funds for people with epilepsy

Christmas is my favourite time of year. I’ve been annoying everyone in my office with talk of the festive season since November. And the handy thing about being a keen singer is that belting ‘Once in royal David’s city’ in ear-splitting falsetto will drown out any grumpy colleagues.

I appreciate that Christmas is a Christian tradition. I come from a Christian family and I went to a Church of England school. Still, I’m not a practising Christian, in fact I don’t really consider myself very religious at all these days. Despite that, the magic of Christmas has stayed with me as an adult. The memory of singing carols as a child is something I’ve never forgotten. And while I never bagged the part of Joseph in our school nativity, I played an excellent shepherd once or twice.

I think that even if Christmas is not a religious experience for you, it can still be a wonderful time of year to celebrate everything we have to be grateful for. It’s a time to spend with our friends and family, exchanging gifts and good wishes. Those good wishes were what the Epilepsy Action Christmas Carol Concert was all about.

Until I ventured inside, I’d forgotten just how impressive Leeds Minster is. It’s a beautiful church and looked just stunning with glistening Christmas decorations and soft lights under the huge vaulted ceiling. Meanwhile, being greeted with a cup of mulled wine set the festive tone of the evening beautifully. I gratefully sipped the warm, spiced wine as people arrived to a performance from St Peter’s CE Primary School’s Steel Pans Band.

We all then took our seats for the carol service proper. As we sang ‘Once in royal David’s city’ (my favourite!) the Boy Choristers, Choral Scholars and Lay Clerks of the Choir of Leeds Minster appeared. They came down the aisle in procession and took their pews for the beginning of the service. We were then warmly welcomed by the Reverend Canon Tony Bundock, Rector of Leeds.

Leeds Minster during the christmas carol concertThe service was lovely and I think everyone happily entered into the festive spirit. Many favourite carols were included, such as ‘Ding dong, merrily on high’, ‘Oh little town of Bethlehem’ and ‘The holly and the ivy’. I sing a lot in my spare time. I enjoyed raising my voice for epilepsy and it was amazing how much of these songs I remembered from school. Although I’d forgotten how high some of them were. I thought I might pass out during ‘Hark the herald angels sing’, but thankfully made it through.

There were several readings through the carol concert, too. Epilepsy Action’s Philippa Cartwright read ‘A Christmas lesson’ by Tom Krause. Some of the younger choristers also read religious passages in sweet clear voices, grinning proudly when they rejoined the choir. Meanwhile, a very special reading was given by our guest of honour, Harry Gration – a familiar face of local news in Yorkshire. Harry offered an animated recital of a Christmas classic: ‘A visit from St Nicholas’ by Clement Clark Moore.

Towards the end of the service, we were reminded very much of why we were there. Epilepsy Action’s fundraising manager, Di Flatt, offered a brief presentation about the work of the organisation. Of course, I love Christmas and for me it’s very much a time of fun and relaxation. (Trying to make it through Christmas dinner with my increasingly confused grandparents notwithstanding. Making sure they don’t do themselves – or each other – a mischief is always stressful, but needs must.) Still, for many the festive season can also be tinged with sorrow.

Our attention was drawn to the Christmas tree near the altar. This tree bore the Shining Star decorations, the result of Epilepsy Action’s recent festive initiative. There were 102 stars on the tree – one for each of 102 supporters who had donated money for a decoration. Each decoration bore a personalised inscription, a message to a missed loved one during the holidays.

It was a powerful reminder – to me, at least – of the true meaning of Christmas. It is the season of good will toward others. After a beautiful carol service, I wandered out into the night just filled with festive spirit… And a sense that, at this time of year, we can all spare a thought for those less fortunate than we are. After all, that’s the point of charity, isn’t it?

The event was a wonderful success, raising over £2,000 for people with epilepsy. This was a brilliant result. Epilepsy Action would like to thank everyone who helped put the Christmas Carol Concert together – including generous sponsorship from SimplyHealth.

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