Carol Symphony

Carol Symphony is a collection of four preludes, written by Victor Hely-Hutchinson in 1927.

Carol Symphony
by Victor Hely-Hutchinson
Period20th-century classical music
FormChorale prelude


It had its first performance on 26 September 1929 at a promenade concert at the Queen's Hall which was broadcast live on the BBC's 2LO, with other music by Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Percy Pitt. It was conducted by the composer.


It is based on four Christmas carols, given additional orchestration and counterpoint arrangements. The four movements are written to be played uninterrupted consecutively.


Usage as theme musicEdit

Two sections from the First Nowell section were used for the 1943 Children's Hour adaptation of John Masefield's The Box of Delights. The work was later used as the opening and closing titles of the 1984 BBC Television adaptation of the same novel. It featured a recording conducted by Barry Rose in 1966 of the Pro Arte Orchestra at Guildford Cathedral. During World War II, the book had been adapted for radio on the BBC's Children's Hour, and Hely-Hutchinson's same music had been used. Prof Hely-Hutchinson later became the BBC's Director of Music, in 1944, until his death in 1947.

During the 1940-1950s, the first movement was used to assist tuning into the BBC's Home Service station before the start of the morning transmission during the Christmas period.


  • Metropole Symphony Orchestra, Dolf van der Linden (conductor) recorded by Paxton Records (LPT 1002). Reissued 2015 by Guild 'Light Music' on GLCD 5233
  • Pro-Arte Orchestra, Barry Rose at Guildford Cathedral recorded by EMI in 1966 (HMV Classics and EMI)
  • City of Prague Symphony Orchestra, Gavin Sutherland recorded by Naxos (NA 7099)

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