Musical celebrations from BBC Religion and Ethics this Christmas

Traditional carols and joyful festive music will be at the heart of Religion and Ethics programming across BBC television and radio this Christmas.

Classical music stars including Russell Watson, Katherine Jenkins, Hayley Westenra and Howard Goodall’s Enchanted Voices, will join with choirs and congregations to celebrate and rejoice in the birth of Jesus and all the yuletide festivities.

For the first time on Christmas Day afternoon, BBC Two broadcasts an hour-long special, Carols From Winchester, providing the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind while enjoying some of the best-loved Christmas carols and classical Christmas music.

On BBC radio, Christmas highlights include BBC Radio 4’s exploration of one of our best-loved carols, Good King Wenceslas, in Sunday Worship. On the feast of St Stephen, the programme travels to Prague to reflect on the story of one of Europe’s most beneficent kings – Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia. 

Speaking about the programmes, Aaqil Ahmed, Head of Religion and Ethics and Commissioning Editor for Religion Television, says: “I’m delighted that the BBC’s religious programming this Christmas is as much a part of the festive season as ever, with the wonderful new addition of Carols From Winchester on Christmas Day afternoon. From Joan Bakewell discussing belief with guests including Bonnie Greer and Chris Patten on BBC Radio 3 to Aled Jones introducing a festive sing-along from the Royal Albert Hall on BBC One on Boxing Day, the BBC provides something for everyone this Christmas.”


Christmas highlights across the BBC include: 


Christmas preparations start on BBC One on Sunday mornings during Advent with the return of Fern Britton Meets… the series in which Fern talks to four people in the public eye about how their personal faith has impacted their lives. This year Fern will talk to June Brown, who rose to fame as gossipy Dot Cotton in EastEnders; celebrity cook and champion of the countryside, Clarissa Dickson Wright; American civil rights campaigner, the Reverend Jesse Jackson; and evergreen singer and now vineyard owner, Sir Cliff Richard.

Also during Advent, Songs Of Praise will countdown to Christmas with four special programmes: on Advent Sunday, Pam Rhodes introduces festive hymns from a candlelit Derby Cathedral. The second Songs Of Praise programme for Advent sees Aled Jones gets into the Christmas spirit, as he is joined by choirs across Yorkshire to explore the story of some of the most popular Christmas Carols. The following week, Aled invites his Christmas guests – Sharon Corr, Paul Carrack and Beverley Knight – to perform some of  their favourite festive songs. And on the Sunday before Christmas it is back to 1910 as Pam Rhodes turns the clock back 100 years to experience an Edwardian Christmas.

BBC One welcomes in Christmas with a live broadcast of the service of Midnight Mass from Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral – the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. The Celebrant is the Archbishop of Liverpool, The Most Reverend Patrick Kelly KCHS STL PhL, who will also give the homily.

On Christmas Day morning, the service will come live from Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire, with the story of the Nativity reflected within the Anglican Eucharist.

Later in the evening there will be a quiet moment of reflection in Christmas Night, as actor Paterson Joseph reads from St John’s Gospel and The Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields performs O Holy Night.

Aled Jones will introduce a special Boxing Day Big Sing from London’s Royal Albert Hall as 5,000 voices come together for a festive singalong of favourite carols and Christmas music. The “people’s tenor”, Russell Watson, Howard Goodall’s Enchanted Voices and best-selling international soprano Hayley Westenra will perform in front of the packed auditorium.

On New Years Day, BBC One will broadcast the Archbishop of Canterbury’s annual New Year’s Message.



In week before Christmas, The Private Life Of A Christmas Masterpiece explores The Adoration of the Christ Child by Filippo Lippi. Painted over five centuries ago, Filippo Lippi’s nativity is like no other – the birth of Christ in a dark, wooded wilderness.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, BBC Two presents Carols From Kings which, for many, heralds the true start of Christmas. The service opens with a single choir boy starting the carol Once In Royal David’s City. He is joined by the world-famous choir to sing favourite Christmas music and carols old and new. As darkness falls, the blue tones of sparkling mediaeval stained glass give way to the warmth of candlelight to create a unique atmosphere in which the Christmas story is told in the well-loved words of the King James’ Bible and reflected on in other readings read by members of the College.

In contrast to the sense of anticipation of Carols From Kings, Carols From Winchester, broadcast for the first time this year on Christmas Day, joyfully and triumphantly celebrates the birth of Jesus. There will be special performances from mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins and bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu.

BBC Radio has a range of programmes for all tastes this Christmas, from the traditional worship to thought provoking interviews and features.

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