Novice composer receives national acclaim for carol

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ONE of the most emotive sounds at this time of year is the sound of a Christmas carol resonating through a church hall.

For one Fareham man who has won a national competition, not only did he get to watch a special Christmas carol concert at London’s Cadogan Hall, the choir were performing a carol he had penned in his front room.

TALENTED Ben Lister in his studio at home in Fareham. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133458-898)

TALENTED Ben Lister in his studio at home in Fareham. Picture: Allan Hutchings (133458-898)

Ben Lister, a Greek and Latin teacher at Portsmouth Grammar School, was a joint winner of The Times’ annual Christmas Carol Competition.

The national newspaper asks people to either write a new Christmas carol or write a new arrangement of an existing one.

This year Ben’s carol The Noisy Stable was picked as joint winner out of 300 entries.

His carol is based around the stable, and uses witty animal noises as the baby Jesus tries to sleep.

Ben, from Catisfield, said: ‘There is a certain sound to a Christmas carol. This one is a bit of fun.’

Ben, who writes with a pencil before transferring the notes to a computer programme, had never had the pleasure of hearing one of his songs professionally performed.

Ben, 58, said: ‘It is my hobby. I have been composing off and on since the age of 12. I did teach music for a while and I have written some musicals for kids.

‘I’ve written quite a lot but this is the first time one of my songs has ever been sung like that. It is amazing when you have been writing as an amateur for so long – I’m in my 50s so to have this happen means there is still hope that people will listen to my music.’

This was not the first time Ben had entered the competition after unsuccessfully entering a more sombre traditional-sounding carol previously.

But his lively and upbeat The Noisy Stable proved to have the winning formula.

The two winning entries made their debut before an audience of more than 800 people, including Ben’s wife and two of his teenage daughters, who watched on proudly.

The performance was filmed and has been put online.

Ben said: ‘The people at The Times treated us extraordinarily kindly. They were really nice and it was a lovely family time. Although, hearing it in the hall, I was so busy I didn’t really take it all in, so it was nice to listen back.’

Ben hopes his carol will be played by schools next year.

Ben said: ‘It’s a great thing, that ordinary people should have this opportunity. It was very encouraging.’