The term ‘carol’, as generally used, includes some items that appear in hymnbooks and are sung by congregations – such as Away in a manger and Once in royal David’s city.
The term is also used sometimes for items that are not congregational hymns.
Some would not normally form part of a church service – such as We wish you a happy Christmas or Past three o’clock.
Some carols are definitely pieces for choirs rather than for general singing.
St. Boniface Church Carol Service: Sunday 21 December (6.30pm)
The St. Boniface Carol Service on Sunday 21 December (6.30pm) includes many familiar carols in the first sense, including Hark, the herald angels and O come, all ye faithful, and several short choir pieces, including John Rutter’s arrangement of The Sans Day Carol and Harold Darke’s setting of In the bleak midwinter.
There is of course a hymn-type carol with the words In the bleak midwinter, with a tune by Gustav Holst, the composer of The Planets’ Suite.
At St. Boniface I play for various Christmas services, but there is one really major carol service – the ‘Nine Lessons‘ referred to above.
We also have a special Advent carol service.
I like most of the Christmas ‘hymn-carols’ – but particularly ‘O come, all ye faithful’ and ‘Hark, the herald angels’.
King’s College Cambridge 2008: O Come, All Ye Faithful
King’s College Cambridge 2011: Hark the Herald Angels Sing