A Christmas History

Image for A Christmas HistoryNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 1 of 2

Duration: 1 hour

Simon Russell Beale takes a journey through Italy, Britain, Germany and Austria as he explores how the sound of Christmas has evolved in response to changing ideas about the Nativity. His story takes us through two millennia of music, from a fragment of papyrus preserving the earliest known piece of Christian music to the stories behind Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night and In the Bleak Midwinter, and the work of popular Christmas composer, John Rutter. Music is performed by Harry Christophers and his choir, The Sixteen.

More episodes

  • Photo: The Sixteen

    Photo: The Sixteen

    The Sixteen are an internationally renowned choir and period instrument orchestra, founded by their conductor Harry Christophers in 1979.

    Wikipedia: The Sixteen
  • Photo: Harry Christophers

    Photo: Harry Christophers

    Before founding The Sixteen, Harry Christophers spent six years as a lay vicar at Westminster Abbey, then three years as a member of the BBC Singers.

    Wikipedia: Harry Christophers
  • Photo: Simon Russell Beale

    Photo: Simon Russell Beale

    Simon Russell Beale visits the grave of 19th century English poet Christina Rossetti, at Highgate Cemetery, north London, where she is buried with her mother and father. The popular Christmas carol In The Bleak Midwinter is based on one of her works.

    Wikipedia: Christina Rossetti
  • BBC Radio 3 Blog: Inside TV's Christmas classical highlights

    BBC Radio 3 Blog: Inside TV's Christmas classical highlights

    Head of BBC Classical Music TV, Peter Maniura, introduces the BBC's Christmas music programmes and looks ahead to a broadcast highlight of the New Year...

    Go to the BBC Radio 3 Blog
  • BBC Radio 3 Blog: Take one from Sixteen: inside A Choral History

    BBC Radio 3 Blog: Take one from Sixteen: inside A Choral History

    Eamonn Dougan, assistant conductor and a bass with The Sixteen, writes about recording Sacred Music's Christmas specials for BBC TV.

    Go to the BBC Radio 3 Blog


Simon Russell Beale
Andy King-Dabbs
Andy King-Dabbs
Series Producer
Helen Mansfield
The Sixteen
Harry Christophers


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss