Christmas this year on BBC television and radio is all about celebrating and cherishing everything the nation loves about this most joyful of seasons.Aaqil Ahmed, BBC Commissioning Editor, Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics
Date: 25.11.2014 Last updated: 27.11.2014 at 13.55
From Advent to New Year, the BBC offers a wide range of Religious yuletide treats across TV and radio, with some of the most loved and cherished elements of Christmas being central to this year’s festive celebrations, including the Christmas story, music, reflection and worship.
BBC One’s On Angel Wings brings the Christmas story to life on the small screen, with the special animated film, based on the book by Michael Morpurgo with an all-star voice cast, while BBC Two and Four celebrate 60 years of Carols From King’s with three special programmes - a documentary looking back at six decades of the unique and much-loved Christmas celebration of carols and readings, the first ever TV broadcast from 1954 and this year’s Carols From King’s. Plus, BBC Two takes viewers on a year-long journey, behind the scenes of the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion – Canterbury Cathedral.
Reflecting on faith at Christmas, BBC One’s Fern Britton talks to guests including Donny Osmond and Nicholas Parsons in Fern Britton Meets… while BBC Radio 2’s Clare Balding meets Angelina Jolie and the Archbishop of Westminster in this year’s edition of Good Morning Christmas.
At the cornerstone of the religious schedule, BBC television and radio welcomes back some of the nation’s most revered annual Christmas events, with many services visiting some of the finest location in the country, to hear some much loved music and prayer.
The Christmas Big Sing returns to BBC One, with an audience of five thousand Songs of Praise viewers at the Royal Albert Hall. Plus, live worship on BBC One comes from Arundel Cathedral, West Sussex and St George’s Parish, Leeds, while BBC Radio 3 live Christmas output comes from the Chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge, Tewkesbury Abbey and St Gabriel’s, Pimlico. BBC Radio 4 also offers music and prayer live from the Chapel of King’s College, Westminster Cathedral and Portsmouth Cathedral.
Aaqil Ahmed, BBC Commissioning Editor, Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics, says: "Christmas this year on BBC television and radio is all about celebrating and cherishing everything the nation loves about this most joyful of seasons with traditional carols, festive music, contemplation, conversation, live worship and beautiful animation. The religious programming offered this year puts the story of Christmas right at the heart of BBC schedules this December and I hope that there will be something to appeal to all audiences, whatever their age or beliefs.”
During the four Sundays of Advent, Fern Britton returns to BBC One to interview more well-known faces about their faith in Fern Britton Meets… This year’s line-up features American singer, Donny Osmond, presenter and actor, Nicholas Parsons, parliamentarian, presenter and former wheelchair racer, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and musician, journalist and Church of England priest, Reverend Richard Coles.
From Advent to New Year, Songs Of Praise presents some special programmes with inspiring hymns, carols and stories of faith from around the UK. On Advent Sunday, Cerrie Burnell visits Southend-on-Sea to find out what children there know about the true meaning of Christmas. Plus, Songs of Praise also meets the man who has brought gospel reggae to the masses.
On 7 December, Songs of Praise remembers Christian author Charles Dickens by visiting Malton in North Yorkshire - the town that inspired one of Dickens’ most famous books - A Christmas Carol - with Malton resident and ex Television Newsreader Selina Scott. Plus, Pam Rhodes witnesses an unlikely collaboration as Carlisle Cathedral Choir and rap duo Beat Convention remix a favourite Christmas Carol.
During the penultimate Advent episode on 14 December, artist Jenny Bell creates a Nativity painting in the middle of Nottingham railway station, to represent the 'true meaning' of Christmas.
The Christmas Big Sing is back on the final Sunday of Advent, when star guests Katherine Jenkins and Jermain Jackman - winner of BBC One's The Voice – join presenters, Bill Turnbull and David Grant in the Royal Albert Hall. Jermain Jackman sings some favourite carols including O Come All Ye Faithful and Katherine Jenkins performs Silent Night. The Swingle Singers sing The Angel Gabriel From Heaven Came in their unique a cappella style, plus New Zealand classical trio Sol3mio perform We Three Kings of Orient Are. Five thousand Songs of Praise viewers raise their voices in Once in Royal David’s City, While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
Bringing the year to an end on 28 December, Songs of Praise explores the religious meaning behind the carol, Twelve Days Of Christmas, with a recreation of each line.
On Christmas Eve, BBC One presents the world premiere of the animated feature film, On Angel Wings - the magical re-working of the nativity story based on the book by leading storyteller, Michael Morpurgo - with an all-star voice cast including Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson, Dominic Cooper and Colin McFarlane. It shares the special experience of a little shepherd boy who meets the Angel Gabriel and travels with him on a journey to Bethlehem to meet the newborn king, Jesus. This special animated story is told through the boy’s own eyes, many years later, as he recounts his experience to his grandchildren on Christmas night.
Also, on Christmas Eve, BBC One will broadcast a traditional Christmas Eve celebration of Midnight Mass live from Arundel Cathedral in West Sussex. The principal celebrant and preacher will be the Dean, the Rev. Canon Tim Madeley, and the congregation, made up of local residents and many Christmas visitors attracted to this picturesque town, sing well-loved carols including O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night and Hark! the Herald-Angels Sing. The Mass Setting is Gounod in C and anthems, sung by Arundel Cathedral Choir, include A Boy Is Born and A Maiden Most Gentle.
The Christmas morning service on BBC One, Come And Join The Celebration, will be broadcast live from St George’s Parish Church in Leeds in the centre of Leeds, with popular carols and contemporary songs. The service, with participation from children in the congregation, will be led by the Rector Jonathan Clark and Associate Rector Joanna Seaborne. There will also be an interview in the Crypt where Christmas Lunch is being prepared for the homeless. The service will feature well-known Christmas carols, led by worship leader Chris Sayburn and the worship band.
On Christmas Night - a short musical reflection for the end of Christmas Day - with Anglican lay reader and actress, Adjoa Andoh - introducing gospel vocal quartet Tessera who will perform the thought-provoking song Mary, Did You Know? in the beautiful nocturnal setting of Gorton Monastery in Manchester. The song teases out some of the things that the baby Jesus’s mother, Mary, didn’t know about what the future held for her son, the Christ-child.
On New Year’s Day, The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, pauses to reflect, at the turn of the year, in The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year Message, from the National Memorial Arboretum.
Canterbury Cathedral provides three hour long episodes featuring unparalleled access to Canterbury Cathedral over the course of a year, taking audiences inside the community that is the beating heart of the Anglican Communion. Today and throughout the 1400 years since St Augustine founded the Christian community in Canterbury, those who run it live on site. As well as a place of worship, it is a place of hospitality - a world class destination for a million modern pilgrims every year, with an international reputation to uphold.
Carols From King’s this year celebrates 60 years of broadcasts on the BBC and to mark this occasion, the documentary, 60 Years Of Carols From King’s will chart the programme's history. This year's traditional and greatly-loved celebration of the birth of Christ follows the documentary with its glorious interweaving of Christmas words and music from the candlelit fan-vaulted splendour of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, marking the true start of Christmas. The world-famous choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury, sing well-loved carols including Stille Nacht, The Lamb and In The Bleak Midwinter (Holst) and includes carols which were sung in the first broadcast: Up! Good Christen Folk And Listen and The Three Kings. As in 1954, the programme begins as a solo chorister sings the first verse of Once in Royal David's City.
Members of the College tell the story of the first Christmas in the words of the King James Bible and through poems by Christina Rossetti and Nathaniel Wanley, and in a special remembrance of the first Christmas of the Great War, a letter from a soldier at the front in December 1914.
Continuing the celebrations, BBC Four will broadcast the first ever episode of Carols From King’s.
BBC Radio 2
BBC Radio 2
This Christmas season, the Sunday Hour provides some very special festive programmes. On Sunday 21 December, Diane Louise Jordan considers the many gifts offered and received at this time of year, whether in sharing our talents or the kindness we show to others. She also plays spiritually uplifting and inspiring music through hymns, Gospel and choral classics, together with childhood nativity play favourites.
On Christmas Day, deck the halls with Diane Louise Jordan as she wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas with a celebration of her favourite traditions in the Sunday Hour Christmas Special. She also offers a festive selection of best loved carols and seasonal songs as she shares her magical Christmas moments with sparkling special guests
On Sunday 28 December, as 2015 approaches, Diane reflects on the year that has passed and ushers in the New Year with inspiring words and prayers and takes requests and dedications from the audience.
Clare Balding presents Good Morning Christmas, live on Christmas morning. Her guest will be the actress, film director and Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie. She will be talking to Clare about her new film, Unbroken which pays tribute to Louis Zamperini - Olympian and prisoner of war survivor - whose Christian faith was central to his life as he devoted himself to teaching the importance of forgiveness.
Also joining Clare in the studio will be The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and there will be live music and carols from gospel choir AVE, under the direction of Ken Burton.
BBC Radio 3
Advent is the season of waiting and in A Service for Advent with Carols on 30 November, the traditional service of Advent Carols centres on messages of promise and hope, grounded in the Word of God, live from the Chapel of St John's College, Cambridge.
Choral Evensong on Christmas Eve offers an archive broadcast from Tewkesbury Abbey with the Exon Singers, first broadcast at Christmastide in 2002. This year’s Choral Evensong on New Year’s Eve comes live with the Rodolphus Choir at St Gabriel's, Pimlico. The Introit is Man dreame no more (Pearson) and responses from Smith and Anthem, Jesu, meine freude (J.S. Bach).
BBC Radio 4
The last in the Sunday Worship Advent series from Methodist College Belfast on 21 December takes the promise of Isaiah - 'A young woman shall bear a son and shall name him Emmanuel.' What can such promises mean in a world where terrorist atrocities abroad and sickness and poverty confront us daily? A selection of popular carols is sung by the award winning choir of Methodist College. Readings come from Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1: 18-25.
For many people around the world, A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, live from the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge on Christmas Eve, marks the beginning of Christmas. It is based around nine Bible readings which tell the story of the loving purposes of God. They are interspersed with carols old and new, sung by the world-famous chapel choir who also lead the congregation in traditional Christmas hymns. Hymms include Once in Royal David's City (desc. Cleobury), Unto us is born a Son (arr. Willcocks), God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen (arr. Willcocks), Eighth lesson: Matthew 2 vv 1-12 read by the Vice-Provost and the Bidding Prayer will be read by the Dean.
This year’s Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve offers a Venetian-style First Mass of Christmas with splendid Gabrieli motets and Palestrina's Missa Hodie Christus Natus Est (Today Christ is Born. The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols celebrates the First Mass of Christmas live from Westminster Cathedral. The vibrant sounds of traditional sackbutts and cornets played by the vituoso English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble will echo and re-echo around the cathedral exploiting its unique spacial properties. The service closes with the resplendent brass and organ voluntary, Hodie Christus Natus Est by Heinrich Schutz. The renowned choir of Westminster Cathedral is directed by Master of Music Martin Baker and the organ is played by the Assistant Master of Music Peter Stevens.
Christmas morning worship from Portsmouth Cathedral, lead by The Dean of Portsmouth, the Very Reverend David Brindley celebrates the Christmas Service with members of the naval community, many of whom worship at the Cathedral. That includes several younger members of the Cathedral choir who are from naval families whose parents are frequently on the other side of the world serving on ships in situations of danger or conflict.
Christmas Meditation brings Christmas Day to a close with a moment of reflecting and memories.
2014 was an historic year for women in the Church of England when they won the right to be appointed as Bishops. In Sunday on 28 December, Caroline Wyatt, the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent looks back at the long campaign and speaks to those who were there when the vote went through. Caroline looks at the role of women in other faiths and the challenges that the first female Bishops are likely to face.
Sunday Worship on 28 December, marks Holy Innocents from Wesley's Chapel London, with carols in the West Gallery style. 200 years ago, when hymns were only just coming into use, before mighty pipe organs had appeared, a group of local musicians would bring their enthusiasm and energy to the aid of congregations. They would sing from the west end of the church and often from a specially constructed West Gallery. Robust and earthy some of this music may be, but their singing still covered every part of human life with songs of innocence and experience, including Awake and join the cheerful choir, Coventry Carol, A Virgin most Pure, While Shepherds Watched their flocks by night, The Magi Carol and O Come all ye Faithful.
Thought for the Day contributors for the festive period from 23 December to 1 January will include The Archbishop of Canterbury - Justin Welby, Bishop Nick Baines, Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Rev Dr Michael Banner, Dr Robert Beckford and Bishop Richard Harries.