Songs Of Praise: Our royal wedding special on Anglesey

Series Editor

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As one of my daughters was married last year, I know what it's like to walk down the aisle, witness the vows and keep smiling for the cameras all day long.

Wedding days are always memorable. Royal weddings become moments in history. We will always remember where we were on Friday, 29 April 2011.

So, knowing that more than two billion eyes would be focussed on William and Kate, with all the pomp and ceremony of the Westminster Abbey service in London, how could Songs Of Praise capture the spirit of the day in our own unique way?

Having been series editor for the last 18 months, which involves overseeing all the programmes - and having produced many editions of the programme during the previous 10 years - I knew we needed to mark the day in one particular community for whom the marriage would have particular significance.

I made a decision some months ago that Songs Of Praise should join in the celebrations with a special programme from a beautiful part of North Wales, where William and Kate would begin their married life.

William is a helicopter pilot with the RAF's Search and Rescue crew based on Angelsey.

So it followed that we should make contact with those who live on the island - neighbours, in a sense, of the couple - and invite them to be part of this television event.

And it wasn't a difficult decision to suggest that our popular presenter Aled Jones introduces the programme.

After all, he grew up on Angelsey and began his singing career as a choirboy in nearby Bangor Cathedral.

In fact, when we recorded the hymn singing in the parish church in Beaumaris in March, Aled was quick to remind the congregation that the last time he stood in the church was when he was 12.

Opportunities to return to his roots are pretty rare, so the warm welcome he received made him feel as if he'd returned home.

He said to me, during a pause in the recording, how special it was to come back and be reminded where it all began for him.

Following some careful research, Anglesey turned out to be the perfect place for a newly married couple.

A nearby island was once inhabited by the Welsh patron saint of lovers, so we decided to interview a local resident about this.

We also found a fascinating craftsman who made traditional Welsh lovespoons and we commissioned him to produce a unique wedding gift that will be sent, with our best wishes, from Songs Of Praise.

And then it transpired that the classical singing group Blake, who had recorded a romantic song for the royal wedding called All Of Me, were available to film with us on Anglesey as well as talk about their association with William and Kate.

Jules and Ollie from the group studied at St Andrews University when the couple were courting, and share their own impressions of that early relationship.

I'm often asked who chooses the hymns featured in the programme and how the selection is made.

Well, the producer always thinks carefully about the music, partly based on the stories to be told by those being interviewed and partly on the nature of the programme.

This time, classic wedding hymns such as Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven and Love Divine almost chose themselves.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that Julie, the producer, might have included one or two of her own favourites as well.

With only weeks to go before our Anglesey recording, the pretty church of St Mary and St Nicholas was selected and singers of all ages quickly recruited from the local area.

Songs of Praise is always a community event. Local congregations are invited to the church that hosts the television recording and in the Land of Song, as Wales is affectionately known, we were spoilt for choice with so many wonderful voices.

There is always a choir rehearsal a week or so before when our conductor runs through the hymns.

On this occasion he had been told that men from a local male voice choir would be there to help swell the tenor and bass parts but, due to some crossed wires, they'd double-booked to travel to Cardiff for a rugby match.

Fortunately, they did turn up for the recording itself, and to stand behind them during a spine-tingling rendition of the Welsh favourite Cwm Rhondda was an experience I'll never forget.

The recording day arrives and the evening light is perfect.

Anglesey on a sunny day is a breathtaking place to be. The scenery is stunning where the sky meets the sea.

The choirs and congregation start to arrive and there is a real buzz in the air.

We have booked members of the RAF Band to help accompany the singing and conductor Paul Leddington Wright is ready to take everyone through each hymn.

It rarely happens in one take because, sometimes for technical reasons, we have to record the hymns several times.

The evening goes very well, everyone is in such good voice, and the music sounds fantastic.

But it doesn't end there. There's more to be done. And I know that the filming on location that compliments the singing often looks very straightforward.

But life is never simple. The producer wanted to film with Prince William's RAF colleagues to illustrate the work they do.

So Aled was volunteered to be winched from an Anglesey beach into the helicopter.

As a TV presenter you can be asked to do all sorts of things. And the great thing about Aled is that he's willing to do almost anything.

One camerman was dispatched to be in the chopper and one of the BBC team was waiting with Aled on the beach, camera at the ready.

Weather conditions weren't perfect, Aled was a little apprehensive, and then it all happened.

One second, he was recording a short link to camera. The next, he was whisked off his feet and was lifted hundreds of feet into the air and ceremonially dropped into the waiting helicopter.

You'll see in the short film that there's no television trickery. Aled really did put himself in the skilled hands of the Royal Air Force crew.

And you can tell by the lump in his throat that he was truly grateful for the work they do. I think it's a magic moment. See what you think.

David Taviner is the series editor for Songs Of Praise.

Songs Of Praise: Anglesey's Royal Celebration is on BBC One at 5.10pm on Sunday, 1 May.

For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

For the latest on the royal wedding, please visit BBC News's special royal wedding site.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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