Candlelight Carol Sing returns to Newark Cathedral from Dec. 13-14

A beloved Christmas tradition will return to Newark’s Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart when the Archdiocese of Newark presents the 52nd Candlelight Carol Sing on Wednesday, December 13, and Thursday, December 14, at 8 p.m.

This year’s Candlelight Carol Sing will consist of nearly 20 holiday songs performed by the Cathedral Basilica’s choir, including seven featuring the audience’s accompaniment. Program highlights will include the “Carol of the World,” an arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High” in which choir members from different countries perform parts of the piece in their native tongues. Other songs will be performed entirely in foreign languages, including a rendition of the “Carol of the Bells” in the original Ukrainian. Finally, the concert will conclude with its traditional finale — a performance of “Silent Night” in a darkened Cathedral Basilica lit only by the congregation’s candles.

Because the Candlelight Carol Sing is the Archdiocese’s Christmas gift to its parishioners, the event is free to attend. However, a standing-room-only crowd of over 2,000 people is expected for both evenings, so those who wish to go are encouraged to arrive as soon as the doors open at 7 p.m. All who attend the December 14 concert will be treated to a few fun surprises.

“There is so much hatred in the world today, which is why we need the Candlelight Carol Sing more than ever,” said Cathedral Basilica Music Director John J. Miller, who has led more Carol Sings than any other conductor. “We need it to counteract the hate and violence with love. We need it to lift our hearts with the joy of Christmas. And we need it to celebrate the fact God sent His only son to save us on Earth.”

The Candlelight Carol Sing’s origin can be traced back to a 1969 snowstorm that prevented an organist from traveling to the Cathedral Basilica for a planned recital. Seeing how disappointed the audience was, then-music director John Rose held an impromptu carol singalong to lift everyone’s spirits. This gathering was so enjoyable it was suggested that another singalong be organized the next year. Thus, a tradition was born, with the event being repeated every year since (except 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Over five decades later, the Candlelight Carol Sing has become the Cathedral Basilica’s most popular concert, with the building regularly getting filled to capacity. The event has also made history, as the 50th Carol Sing featured the world premiere of a piece from composer James Syler. A man even proposed to his girlfriend during one year’s performance of “Silent Night.”

“Our goal is always to brighten everyone’s spirits,” Miller said. “If you leave the Candlelight Carol Sing happier and filled with the Christmas spirit, then we’ve done our job.”

The Candlelight Carol Sing is not the only holiday show in the Cathedral Basilica’s 2023-24 Concert Series. The annual Navidad Latina concert featuring Latin American singers and instrumentalists took place earlier this month. And soon, the New Jersey Symphony will perform Handel’s “The Messiah” on Sunday, December 17, at 7 p.m. Additional information can be found at