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Darkness to Light in Salisbury
By Mark Jones
BBC Wiltshire

From Darkness to Light (Photo (C) Ash Mills
The annual 'From Darkness to Light' procession is one of most visually spectacular events to be staged in Salisbury Cathedral

One of the biggest and most atmospheric Advent services has been taking place at Salisbury Cathedral.

The annual 'From Darkness to Light' procession is one of most visually spectacular events to be staged in the world famous building.

It's so popular people start queuing a couple of hours before the doors open at 6pm.

They then they have to wait until 7pm before it all starts. And if you're there late you usually can't get in.

You really have to be there to experience it but if you were one of those who couldn't make it this year (on Saturday and Advent Sunday) - or worse still, queued but couldn't get in - then hopefully I can give you some idea of what it was like.

From Darkness to Light (Photo (C) Ash Mills
Salisbury Cathedral is bathed in an atmospheric glow

Imagine you're standing silently in complete darkness, not any sort of darkness but a heavy black that wraps itself around you like a warm thick blanket.

There is a gentle stillness that descends too.

You can't hear a thing - not even the proverbial pin dropping, and that's some feat as you are surrounded by nearly 2,000 other people.

Then a bustling and the dark is pierced by one solitary naked flame.

One of the Cathedral's 'Taperers' lighting the first of many candles surrounding the congregation, and a very important one, the large Advent candle standing proud next to the new font.

Now a clear, cut glass but soothing sound pierces through the heavy quiet. A solo chorister carrying a solitary candle.

Silence is broken gently

His perfectly in-tune voice starts a cascade of beautiful voices from his fellow choir members who walk behind him. Each carrying a candle which is lit as they go so the darkness begins to turn into an orangey light.

Those 'Taperers' weave in and out of the dark, like moving shadows, to light large candle trees dotted around the Nave, all the way up to the choir stalls and on to the alter and famous dark blue stained glass window.

From Darkness to Light Photo (C) Ash Mills
'Taperers' light candles around the cathedral

Also a straight row of tea lights are lit on either side of the Nave under the tall arches - at the end it looks a bit like the landing lights on an airport runway.

And the choir continues to sing as the building is slowly bathed in a warm glow, illuminating the packed congregation.

The music hits you like a strong wind

And then they sing, accompanied by the deep, rich tones from the famous Father Willis organ.

You can't help being swept up by the music which hits you like a sudden, strong wind of sound in stark contrast to the silence and quite choral song before.

The hour long service ends with a climax of song and music, this year the Advent carol; Lo he comes with clouds descending.

If you were there you will relate to this account if not hopefully it has given you some food for thought and perhaps a yearning to come to next year's service.

And because the event is so popular the organisers are putting on an extra night next year, so it will run over three evenings to avoid disappointment.

So see you there.

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