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Archbishop John Sentamu

Michael Berkeley's special guest for Christmas Day is the archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. His choices include music by Handel, Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York, is a special guest for Christmas Day.

In Private Passions, he talks to Michael Berkeley about being the middle child of thirteen children, in Uganda. His father had a small gramophone and they all learned to sing Handel's Messiah with great gusto. John Sentamu practised as a lawyer and was a judge in the country's High Court by the age of 25, but when Idi Amin came to power the rule of law collapsed. Sentamu was imprisoned and tortured; "it was not so much a prison as a killing field". He heard his friends being shot. He talks movingly about how his Christian faith never wavered during his imprisonment and miraculous escape. He came to Britain in 1974 and trained as a priest, spending most of his career in some of the most deprived areas of London. Dr Sentamu became Bishop for Stepney and then Bishop for Birmingham; he was appointed Archbishop of York in 2005. Poverty and social inequality has always been at the heart of his Christian mission; he strongly believes he has a political role and a duty to speak out in a divided society. He talks too about his involvement in the campaign against knife crime in Birmingham, and being taken blindfolded to visit gang leaders. Dr Sentamu was Adviser to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Inquiry and he chaired the Damilola Taylor Murder Review.

Archbishop Sentamu reveals the music which has sustained him through an extraordinary and challenging life: Elgar's Cello Concerto, for instance: the Archbishop played the Jacqueline du Pre recording on the hour every hour from 6am to 6pm at York Minster for a week as part of a Vigil of prayers for peace. He introduces music from his local church in Uganda; and the choir of York Minster singing the Archbishop's favourite carol: "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".

The programme ends with Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols, as John Sentamu reflects on the great pleasures of Christmas - including his love of cooking. If all else fails, his children say, he could always open a restaurant. And his signature dish would be - brussels sprouts

Produced by Elizabeth Burke
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 3.

Available now

37 minutes

Last on

Christmas Day 2016 12:00

Music Played

  • George Frideric Handel

    For Unto Us a Child is Born (Messiah)

    Orchestra: Dunedin Players. Conductor: John Butt. Choir: Dunedin Consort.
  • James Montgomery

    Ekisera Kye Kitsu

    Choir: Masoli Church Choir.
  • Edward Elgar

    Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85 (1st mvt: Adagio)

    Performer: Jacqueline du Pré. Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: John Barbirolli.
  • Francis Routh

    A Sacred Tetralogy (1: The Manger Throne - Christmas)

    Performer: Christopher Bowers-Broadbent.
  • Maggi Dawn

    Come Lord Jesus, Come

  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

    Performer: John Scott Whiteley. Choir: Choir of York Minster. Conductor: Philip Moore.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Fantasia on Christmas Carols

    Choir: Choir of York Minster. Conductor: Robert Sharpe.


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