Main content
This programme is not currently available

Sacred River

Neil MacGregor introduces a special presenter-less celebration of the spiritual side of life that so many encounter through music, no matter what their faith or tradition.

Neil MacGregor introduces a special presenter-less celebration of the spiritual side of life that so many encounter through music, no matter what their faith or tradition. Linked to Neil's 'Living with the Gods' (Radio 4) this is a seamless "slow radio" flow, the music - spanning all periods - leads listeners through major themes of religion and belief, encompassing the whole gamut of human experience of the divine to take a broad view of what it is to believe. The programme begins with the wonders of creation and the cosmos, and as darkness is dispelled the theme of light emerges, a significant element of many belief systems. This leads into music inspired by nature and the world around us. From there the pieces chosen (mainly from the Western tradition, but encompassing many world faiths) explore the concept of love from the perspective of the sacred before turning the focus to ritual, the prayerful, contemplative and meditative part of the human condition - as well as the joyous and ecstatic.

Finally, thoughts turn to life, death and eternity with music that explores transience, mortality and beliefs about the world to come. Peppered throughout the day, listeners will hear the sacred sounds of a range of world religions, in carefully curated vignettes, opening up the intimate and personal world of belief.

Producers: Katharine Longworth, Ben Collingwood and Rosie Dawson.

5 hours, 57 minutes

Last on

Sun 26 Nov 2017 09:00

Music Played

  • Plainchant

    Veni creator

    Choir: Cistercian Monks Of Stift Heiligenkreuz.
    • UCJ Music.
  • Joseph Haydn

    The Creation: Einleitung, 'Die Vorstellung des Chaos'

    Orchestra: Orchestre des Champs‐Élysées. Conductor: Philippe Herreweghe.
    • PHI.
  • Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

    Allah Hoo Allah Hoo

    Ensemble: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Qawwal And Party.
    • Real World Records.
  • Thomas Tallis

    Spem in alium

    Choir: The Sixteen. Director: Harry Christophers.
    • CORO.
  • Iannis Xenakis

    Pleiades (Melanges)

    Ensemble: Kroumata Percussion Ensemble.
    • BIS.
  • Jean‐Féry Rebel

    Le chaos (Les élémens)

    Orchestra: Musica Antiqua Köln. Conductor: Reinhard Goebel.
    • Rebel: Die Elemente; Gluck: Alessandro.
    • Archiv Produktion.
    • 1.
  • Jeanne Demessieux

    Te Deum, Op 11

    Performer: Francesca Massey.
    • Priory.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Mass in B minor, BWV 232 (Sanctus)

    Choir: Monteverdi Choir. Orchestra: English Baroque Soloists. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • J.S. Bach: Mass in B minor: John Eliot Gardiner.
    • ARCHIV.
    • 10.
  • Joseph Shabalala

    Inkanyezi Nezazi

    Choir: Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
    • Wrasse.
  • George Frideric Handel

    Eternal source of light divine (Birthday Ode for Queen Anne)

    Singer: Elin Manahan Thomas. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Conductor: Harry Christophers.
    • Elin Manahan Thoms: Eternal Light.
    • Heliodor.
  • Arvo Pärt

    Spiegel im Spiegel

    Performer: Dietmar Schwalke. Performer: Alexander Malter.
    • ECM.
  • Ravi Shankar

    Passages (Prashanti)

    Composer: Philip Glass. Ensemble: Philip Glass Ensemble.
    • Sony Classical.
    • 88985337612.
    • 23.
  • Claude Debussy

    Images, Book 2: Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut

    Performer: Marc-André Hamelin.
    • Hyperion.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Symphony No 41 in C major, K 551, 'Jupiter' (4th mvt)

    Orchestra: Staatskapelle Dresden. Conductor: Colin Davis.
    • Mozart: Symphonies Nos. 39 & 41: Sir Colin Davis.
    • Philips.
    • 8.
  • John Tavener

    A Buddhist Miniature

    Choir: Cappella Nova. Conductor: Alan Tavener.
    • LINN.
  • Frederick Delius

    The Song of the High Hills

    Choir: BBC Symphony Chorus. Orchestra: BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis.
    • Chandos.
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

    Sicut Cervus / Sitivit Anima Mea - motet for 4 voices

    Ensemble: New York Polyphony.
    • Roma Æterna.
    • BIS.
    • 21.
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis

    Orchestra: Sinfonia of London. Conductor: John Barbirolli.
    • EMI.
  • Paul Winter Consort

    Missa Gaia (Kyrie)

    Ensemble: Paul Winter Consort.
    • Living Music.
  • Gustav Holst

    Hymn to Vena (Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Set 3)

    Performer: Osian Ellis. Choir: Royal College of Music Chamber Choir. Conductor: Sir David Willcocks.
    • Gustav Holst: Choral Hymns Rig Veda.
    • Unicorn-Kanchana.
    • 4.
  • Claudio Monteverdi

    Nigra sum (Vespro della Beata Vergine)

    Director: Christina Pluhar. Ensemble: L’Arpeggiata.
    • C. Monteverdi : Vespro della Beata Vergine - 1610: Christina Pluhar/L'Arpeggiata.
    • Virgin Classics.
    • 3.
  • John Ireland

    Greater love hath no man

    Performer: Philip Scriven. Choir: Winchester Cathedral Choir. Director: David Hill.
    • Favourite Anthems From Winchester.
    • Herald.
    • 1.
  • Ernest Bloch

    Prayer (From Jewish Life)

    Music Arranger: Christopher Palmer. Performer: Natalie Clein. Orchestra: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Ilan Volkov.
    • Bloch/Bruch: Voice in the Wilderness etc: Clein/BBC SSO/Volkov.
    • Hyperion.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Erbarme dich (St Matthew Passion, BWV 244)

    Singer: Christina Landshamer. Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Conductor: Riccardo Chailly.
    • Bach: Matthaus-Passion.
    • Decca.
    • 2.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen (St Matthew Passion, BWV 244)

    Conductor: Riccardo Chailly. Singer: Johannes Chum. Singer: Hanno Müller‐Brachmann. Singer: Christina Landshamer. Singer: Maximillian Schmitt. Choir: Thomanerchor. Choir: Tölzer Knabenchor. Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
    • Bach: Matthaus-Passion.
    • Decca.
    • 3.
  • Charles‐Marie Widor

    Toccata (Organ Symphony No.5 in F minor, Op.42`1)

    Performer: Olivier Latry.
    • BNL.
  • Trad.

    Firn Di Mekhutonim Aheym

    Ensemble: Burning Bush.
    • ARC Music.
  • Eric Whitacre

    This Marriage

    Choir: Polyphony. Conductor: Stephen Layton.
    • Hyperion.
  • Traditional

    Dervish Prayer Music On Maqam Segah

    • ARC Music.
  • Henry Purcell

    My beloved spake

    Singer: Julian Podger. Singer: Charles Pott. Singer: Peter Harvey. Ensemble: Gabrieli Consort. Director: Paul McCreesh.
    • Purcell: Cacilien-Ode; Zwei Verse Anthems.
    • Archiv Producktion.
    • 14.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Nocturne in G minor, Op 37 No 1

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • Chopin: The Solo Piano Works: Ashkenazy.
    • London.
    • 11.
  • Leonard Bernstein

    Chichester Psalms (III. Psalm 131 [complete] and Psalm 133 [verse 1])

    Singer: John Bogart. Choir: Camerata Singers. Orchestra: New York Philharmonic. Conductor: Leonard Bernstein.
    • Sony.
  • Carl Heinrich Biber

    Mystery (Rosary) Sonata No 4 (The Presentation in the Temple)

    Performer: Rachel Podger. Performer: Marcin Świątkiewicz. Performer: David Miller.
    • Channel Classics.
  • Gregorio Allegri

    Miserere mei Deus

    Choir: St Paul's Cathedral Choir. Singer: Jeremy Budd. Director: John Scott.
    • Hear my Prayer: Budd/St Paul's Cathedral Choir/Scott.
    • Hyperion.
    • 4.
  • Max Bruch

    Kol Nidrei

    Performer: Truls Mørk. Orchestra: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France. Conductor: Paavo Järvi.
    • VIRGIN.
  • Roxanna Panufnik

    Westminster Mass (Gloria)

    Choir: Westminster Cathedral Choir. Conductor: James OʼDonnell.
    • Teldec.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Symphony No 5 in D major, Op 107, 'Reformation' (4th mvt)

    Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic. Conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi.
    • Mendelssohn: Symphonies Nos.3 - 5; THe Hebrides, etc. - Wiener Philharmoniker, D.
    • Decca.
    • 4.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Ave Maria

    Choir: Polyphony. Conductor: Stephen Layton.
    • Bruckner: Mass in E minor/Motets: Polyphony/Britten Sinfonia/Layton.
    • Hyperion.
    • 1.
  • Edward Elgar

    Softly and gently (The Dream of Gerontius)

    Singer: Janet Baker. Choir: CBSO Chorus. Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle.
    • EMI.
  • Olivier Messiaen

    Quartet for the End of Time: 2. Vocalise pour l'Ange qui annonce la fin du Temps

    Performer: Huguette Fernandez. Performer: Guy Deplus. Performer: Jacques Nielz. Performer: Marie-Madeleine Petit.
    • WARNER.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Nunc dimittis (Vespers)

    Choir: Latvian Radio Choir. Conductor: Sigvards Kļava.
    • Ondine.
  • Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet

    God Shall Wipe All Tears Away

    Performer: Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet.
    • Ladilikan.
    • World Circuit.
    • 5.
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

    Symphony No 6 in B minor, Op 74 'Pathetique' (Adagio lamentoso)

    Orchestra: Czech Philharmonic. Conductor: Semyon Bychkov.
    • Decca.
  • Benjamin Britten

    War Requiem, Op 66 (Agnus Dei)

    Singer: Peter Pears. Choir: London Symphony Chorus. Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Benjamin Britten.
    • Decca.
  • Franz Liszt

    Via crucis (Station XIV: Jesus est mis dans le sepulcre)

    Performer: Leslie Howard.
    • Hyperion.
  • Tarik O’Regan

    Triptych (From Heaven Distilled A Clemency)

    Choir: Conspirare. Conductor: Craig Hella Johnson.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Joseph Haydn

    String Quartet, Op 51 'Seven Last Words from the Cross' (Pater, in manus tuas)

    Ensemble: Casals Quartet.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Traditional

    Agun Pani Akosh Matya

    Singer: Purna Das Baul.
    • Nascente.
  • Maurice Duruflé

    Requiem (In Paradisum)

    Choir: Westminster Cathedral Choir. Conductor: James OʼDonnell.
    • Hyperion.
  • Plainchant

    Dies irae

    Choir: Benedictine Nuns of Notre Dame.
    • Voices, Chant from Avignon: The Benedictine Nuns Of Notre Dame.
    • Decca.
    • 5.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Symphony No 2 in C minor, 'Resurrection' (5th mvt)

    Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle. Singer: Magdalena Kožená. Singer: Kate Royal. Choir: Rundfunkchor Berlin. Conductor: Simon Halsey.
    • G. Mahler, Symphony no. 2 'Resurrection': Berliner Philharmoniker/Rattle.
    • EMI Classics.
    • 4.


What is Sacred River?

What is Sacred River?

Discover more about our six-hour musical marathon.

Living with the Gods

Living with the Gods

Neil MacGregor explores the role and expression of beliefs around the world (Radio 4).