And so we are into carol season. All of a sudden the other work has cleared almost entirely and what lies before me is a run of services and concerts and very little else.

Yesterday morning I gave my final lecture for the group at Ickenham I have been with for over a decade. In that time we have explored innumerable composers and pieces, and shed light on many of the lesser known areas of music, including characters such as Zelenka and Knecht. It has been fascinating and educational, but those notes take a long time to research and write, to say nothing of the listening that has to be done, and I think that my days of regular lecturing are now behind me.

I left with sadness, though, even if I woke up today with the knowledge that, unlike last year, this Christmas seasons will be empty of the research and marking that has occupied me over previous years. Instead I shall be getting involved with the first draft of the orchestration of the Cantata of Saint Dunstan, with the intention of getting version one finished by the end of the year.

Carol season is normally a decent time for my music, and on Wednesday the Parliament Choir will give the first performance of The Oxen, while my arrangement of We Three Kings will also be part of the event. Next week in Kensington The Oxen will receive its second and third performances, so I think I can take the point of view that it will have had a decent start in the world.

My time off was also officially announced to the Parliament Choir last night, something I had intentionally kept slightly quiet because, despite what one might believe from reading this self-aggrandising blog, it still feels very much like a personal thing. There is also that nagging doubt that I will actually get around to fulfilling the projects that I have in mind, but as I drove back to Somerset yesterday evening for the briefest of returns home I actually felt quite serene, not something I have experienced for a while. Whatever the doubts of my febrile imagination it seems that my brain, deep down, thinks that everything will be just fine.