The BBC today announced new and returning religious TV and radio programming to mark and celebrate the holiest time in the Christian calendar.
At the heart of this year’s Easter selection on TV, are two episodes of Songs Of Praise In The Holy Land on BBC One. On Palm Sunday, Aled Jones accompanies a choir of young Christians as they visit the key holy sights for the first time, including the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where they will also sing Easter hymns and songs. On Easter Sunday Aled presents from Christianity’s most sacred city - Jerusalem - where the programme explores the faith stories of Lion King star Shaun Escoffery, and renowned soprano Laura Wright.
Songs Of Praise In The Holy Land is made by Avanti Media and Nine Lives Media, under executive producers Emyr Afan, Avanti Media CEO, and Cat Lewis, Nine Lives Media CEO. It was commissioned by Dan McGolpin, Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual.
Britain’s Easter Story is a new two–part series on Good Friday and Easter Sunday with choir master Gareth Malone and gospel choir conductor Karen Gibson. They travel across the UK to explore the stories behind our Easter traditions, looking at how different celebrations have developed over the years, and how music remains a big part of those celebrations.
Britain’s Easter Story (2x60’) is a BBC Studios production. The executive Producer is Rob Unsworth. It was commissioned by Dan McGolpin, Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, and Fatima Salaria, Commissioning Editor.
On Sunday mornings from 17 March a new eight-part series goes to the heart of the fascinating cultural and spiritual narratives found in our countryside. In Walks of Life, each week, Mehreen Baig and JB Gill take viewers on a specially curated walk to explore modern attitudes to religion, belief, and society’s relationship with the spectacular landscapes around us.
Walks Of Life (8x60’) is a 7Wonder production. Alan Holland is the Exec Producer and the Series Producer is Debb Swindells. It was commissioned by Dan McGolpin, Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, and Fatima Salaria, Commissioning Editor.
In Pilgrimage: Road To Rome on BBC Two (pictured) we see eight famous faces, actor Les Dennis, comedian Katy Brand, Olympic athlete Greg Rutherford, actress Lesley Joseph, dancer Brendan Cole, comedian Stephen K Amos, journalist Mehreen Baig and Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana arrive at St Peter’s Square in Rome, where they are granted a private audience with Pope Francis in this final episode on Good Friday.
Pilgrimage: The Road To Rome (3x60’) is made by CTVC. The Executive Producers are Caroline Matthews and Colm Martin. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC was Fatima Salaria.
Easter Carols At King’s. Music director, Stephen Cleobury lead the renowned King’s College choir as they sing some of the best-loved choral music for the season, including Crucifixus (Lotti), Were You There? (arr. Cleobury) and Hallelujah (Handel, from Messiah). Mezzo soprano Jennifer Johnston joins the choir to perform the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascangi).
Easter Carols at King’s (1x75’), is made by BBC Studios, Salford. The Executive Producer is Hugh Faupel. It was commissioned by Dan McGolpin, Controller of BBC Programming and Daytime, the Commissioning Editor for the BBC was Fatima Salaria.
To compliment these highlights, there will be live Easter service from St Mary’s in Warwick and Pope Francis’ Easter Sunday Message and Blessing - Urbi et Orbi - presented by Religion Editor Martin Bashir.
Tom McDonald, Head of commissioning, Natural History & Specialist Factual, says: “We are excited to bring viewers a range of programmes to celebrate the Christian calendar's most important date. Easter is a time of thoughtfulness, introspection and also great joy and we will be reflecting that across our titles."
BBC Radio highlights begin with Radio 4’s continuing Lent Talks from Wednesday 3 April, 20:45. Sir Paul Coleridge, Candida Moss and Alison Cope reflect on the story of Jesus' ministry and Passion from the perspective of their own personal and professional experience. Lent Talks is produced by Dan Tierney.
In Luke, Acts, a two-part dramatisation on Radio 4 starting Saturday 13 April at 2.30pm, poet Michael Symmons Roberts tells afresh one of the founding stories of our culture and of world history. Starring David Schofield, Verity Henry and more. Luke, Acts is directed by Sharon Sephton and produced by Susan Roberts.
Musical celebrations begin on Radio 3 with EBU Day Of Holy Week Music: Part one on Sunday 14 April at 2pm, produced by Ellie Mant. Andrew McGregor presents Radio 3's annual day of music for Holy Week from around Europe, taking in concerts from Bulgaria, Latvia, Denmark, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and Russia. Also on Radio 3 beginning Monday 15 April at 10.45pm is The Essay, a Holy Week series in which five writers of different faiths select a painting depicting Christ’s passion or resurrection from the National Gallery collection in London as the starting point for their essay. The Essay features Sathnam Sanghera, Kit de Waal, Abdul-Rehman Malik, Sheila Hayman and Chibundu Onuzo.
Prayer For The Day, a spiritual comment and prayer to begin the day, with the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, features on Radio 4, Good Friday at 5.40am, and Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, Bishop of London, will deliver her Thought for the Day at 7.50am.
Radio 2’s Pause For Thought throughout the week in the run up to Easter Weekend will focus on the theme of New Life. Vanessa Feltz’s show on Good Friday will feature a contribution from Reverend Michaela Youngson, the current President of the Methodist Conference. Vanessa Feltz is produced by David Manero, a Wise Buddah production for Radio 2.
To introduce the breadth and depth of the psalms Bishop James Jones’ Good Friday Meditation on Radio 4 at 3pm reflects on Psalm 22, through readings, music and personal stories, including guest reader Maxine Peake. It is produced by Helen Lee. In a four-part special The Psalms read by Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons follows at 3.30pm. The Psalms show a whole range of human emotion: here we find hymns, laments and songs of thanksgiving - produced by Sue Roberts.
As part of the Holy Week Festival at St. John's, Smith Square in London, Sir James Macmillan conducts the BBC Singers in a sequence of music for Radio 3 In Concert: Music For Maundy Thursday at 7.30pm, is produced by Jonathan Manners. Performances continue on Good Friday at 7.30pm with Radio 3 in Concert: Verdi Requiem; Donald Macleod presents a concert live from the Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, as part of the Easter at King's Festival. It is produced by Neil Varley.
At The Foot Of The Cross, presented by Dan Walker, returns to Radio 2 with songs of despair and hope for Good Friday, at 8pm. The BBC Concert Orchestra is joined by London Contemporary Voices, The BBC Radio 2 Young Choristers Of The Year, and special guest stars including singer-songwriter Yola, to present a sequence of spiritual songs from stage and screen reflecting on the story of Good Friday, the day that Jesus died. At The Foot Of The Cross is produced by Katharine Longworth.
Prayer for the Day on Radio 4 on Saturday 20 April, 5.40am, features Juanita Francis, Praise and Worship leader and Youth Pastor at Ruach City Church, London.
Sunrise Service, Sunday 21 April from 6.35am on Radio 4, marks Easter as a festival of light - people stumbling upon a gloriously empty tomb as the day began, and light spilling into hearts and minds. Baptist minister the Revd Richard Littledale tells the Easter story as the sun rises. It is produced by Andrew Earis. Sunrise Service is followed by Easter Sunday Worship live from Southwell Minster, then moving to Radio 3 for Live Choral Evensong from Southwell Minster on Easter Sunday at 3pm, both produced by Ben Collingwood.
Easter Sunday on BBC Radio 2 begins at 6am with Good Morning Sunday. Joining Kate and Jason live from Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will be reflecting on why Easter is the most important day in the Christian calendar. Plus music from the Grammy winning Soweto Gospel Choir, produced by David Cook for BBC Radio 2.
Radio 3’s Easter celebrations continue on Sunday at 5.30pm with Words And Music: Pilgrimage, produced by Chris Wines. Actors Robert Powell and Josette Simon deliver an anthology of words with music reflecting the spirit and idea of pilgrimage through the ages, from Canterbury to Graceland.
On BBC Radio 5 Live, Sunday 21 April at 10am, radio and TV presenter Laura Whitmore looks at what faith means to millennials, in Laura Whitmore - Losing My Religion, produced by TBI Media for BBC Radio 5 Live.
Christine Morgan, Head of Radio for Religion and Ethics, says: “BBC Radio offers listeners traditional and new programming to mark this important festival. We have a whole host of different voices, stories, and music to explore the meaning of Easter."