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Songs of Praise

Songs of Praise
Genre Religious television
Created by Donald Baverstock
Presented by Aled Jones
David Grant
Diane Louise Jordan
Pam Rhodes
Sally Magnusson
Claire McCollum
Connie Fisher
Dan Walker
Bill Turnbull
(See full list)
Theme music composer Robert Prizeman (1986-)
Ending theme Songs of Praise - Toccata for Organ
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 2,300 (October 2012)
Executive producer(s) Dave Stanford (Feb 2015-)[1]
Producer(s) Garry Boon
Charlotte Hindle
Rowan Morton Gledhill
Editor(s) Matthew Napier (June 2014-)[2]
Running time 35 minutes
Production company(s) Religious Programmes Dept, BBC Manchester
Original channel BBC One
Original release 1 October 1961 (1961-10-01) - present
External links
Songs of Praise

Songs of Praise is a BBC Television religious programme that presents Christian hymns which first aired in October 1961.

The first edition was broadcast from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cardiff, and the series is one of the longest-running of its kind on television anywhere in the world.[3][4]


  • Presenters and contributors 1
  • Format 2
    • Programming 2.1
  • Events 3
  • Reception and impact 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Presenters and contributors

Presenters of the show have included Geoffrey Wheeler, Michael Barratt, Cliff Michelmore, Sir Harry Secombe, Alan Titchmarsh, Roger Royle, Debbie Thrower, Bruce Parker, Ian Gall, Martin Bashir, Huw Edwards, Eamonn Holmes, Jonathan Edwards and Steve Chalke. Guest presenters have included Sir Cliff Richard, Gavin Peacock, Pete Waterman,[5] Ann Widdecombe[6] and Caron Keating.

The current main presenters are Aled Jones, David Grant, Bill Turnbull, Pam Rhodes, Sally Magnusson, Diane-Louise Jordan, Claire McCollum, Connie Fisher, Josie d'Arby and Dan Walker.[7]


From November 2014 the programme format changed, adopting more of a magazine format. The stated intention[8] was to evolve the series to reflect the wider Christian audience across the country. Music remains at the heart of the series but is more varied in style, reflecting the broad range of Christian genres in each programme and across the series; there is no longer a single location where the music and stories come from each week. The series continues to be usually broadcast between 4 and 5pm on Sundays. This new format replaced the previous version which included congregations from churches and cathedrals singing hymns whilst the presenter explores that week's theme, all from the same location. The new format continues with special programmes marking Easter and Remembrance Sunday as well as the popular two Big Sing programmes from the Royal Albert Hall and the School Choir of the Year contest. The more recent Gospel Choir of the Year began recording in Birmingham Town Hall in 2013 and in 2014 was recorded at The Hackney Empire in London.

The show has included interviews with Tony Blair, Frances Shand Kydd, Alan Ayckbourn and members of the British Royal Family.


At its inception in October 1961, the programme was broadcast at 18:15. From September 1962, it moved to 18:50, and then to 18:40 from April 1977. Religious programming was also broadcast on ITV in the same timeslot, but this custom ceased at the end of 1992. From January 1993, the programme's scheduled broadcast time was changed to 18:25 and then 18:10 from January 1996. Since then, the time of broadcast has tended to shift slightly earlier, but the precise slot has often varied from week to week.

For many years, the series was replaced during the summer months by other Christian-themed programming. From 1977[9] until 1993, a selection of hymns from the previous year's shows, linked by Thora Hird reading requests and dedications, was featured in Your Songs of Praise Choice, which changed its name to Praise Be! in the 1980s. Other summer replacements included Home on Sunday (1980–88)[10] and Sweet Inspiration (1993–94).[11]

Each year since 2003, three consecutive weeks of the programme (usually in April) have been devoted to the 'School Choir of the Year' competition - the first two weeks being semi-finals featuring junior and senior school choirs respectively, with the final of both categories in the third week.


Events have included a 3 October 1982 broadcast from Strangeways Prison (the first time it had broadcast from a prison), a 2 January 1983 broadcast from the Falkland Islands, and a broadcast from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.[12]

A competition was held in honor of the 20th anniversary in which people submitted newly written hymns. Fifteen winners were published in a book New Songs of Praise I.[13]

The programme staged its largest event at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on the first Sunday of 2000.[14] A live audience of over 60,000 people came to sing hymns, with a 6,000 piece choir, an orchestra of 100 harps, the band of the Welsh Guards and an anthem specially written by Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. The programme was produced by John Forrest (Producer-Director). Ian Bradley said the event had a "wonderful vulgarity" but that it also had an "infectious sense of community"[14]

The Easter 2007 edition of the show had been recorded at the same time as the Christmas 2006 edition of the show at Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire in order to cut costs - with simple changes in lighting and flowers to reflect the two major services. The Bishop of Lichfield said the early recording was not a "deliberate deceit" but would give "an air of unreality" to the Easter programme, while a BBC spokeswoman said it was "common practice" to film two shows at once due to the costs in setting up lighting rigs, especially in a large cathedral.[15]

The 16 August 2015 broadcast, filmed at a ramshackle Ethiopian Orthodox church in the Calais jungle, received criticism from right-wing tabloids including the Daily Express, who lambasted the BBC as "out of touch" and the show as "political propaganda".[16][17] In response to the controversy, senior religious figures including Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby defended the BBC's decision as reflecting the Church's teachings on poverty.[18]

Reception and impact

In the early 1990s, the weekly viewership of the show was about twenty-five percent of the British population.[14] In 1998, the average viewership was between 5 and 6 million.[19] Because of the long time airing of Songs of Praise following the Sunday evening news, the time slot has become known as the "God slot".[20] The show has been accused of "abandon[ing] its long-standing commitment to straightfoward hymns and 'ordinary' people talking about their often very extraordinary lives and faith and becoming increasingly obsessed with celebrities and soft-focus schmaltz".[21]

The show featured in episodes of the BBC comedy television series The Vicar of Dibley.[22]

Recording Songs of Praise in 1988

See also


  1. ^ "HRH The Prince of Wales, British Black Gospel Music and Abide With Me" BBC website - first appearance in role in Credits section
  2. ^ "D-Day: 70 Years On" BBC website - first appearance in role (promoted from Producer) in Credits section
  3. ^ Songs of PraiseBBC: History of
  4. ^ "Songs of Praise: Celebrating 50 Years". BBC. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Hitman and Hymn", BBC Press Office, 7 October 2002.
  6. ^ "Ann's happy to be Strictly a singleton". 5 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Meet the Presenters", BBC Songs of Praise website. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Songs of Praise to change format as part of relaunch", BBC News. 16 November 2014.
  9. ^ "Dame Thora Hird obituary", Telegraph, 17 March 2003
  10. ^ "Home on Sunday", BFI
  11. ^ "Sweet Inspiration", BFI
  12. ^ Basile, Salvatore (2010). Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Fordham Univ Press. pp. 270–.  
  13. ^ Rees, Robin (1993-01-01). Weary and Ill at Ease: A Survey of Clergy and Organists. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 45–.  
  14. ^ a b c Bradley, Ian (2007-01-15). Believing in Britain: The Spiritual Identity of 'Britishness'. I.B.Tauris. pp. 225–.  
  15. ^ "BBC defends early Easter filming". BBC News. 26 March 2007. 
  16. ^ Shendrick, Giles (11 August 2015). "Songs of Praise in Calais EXPOSED – this is how the BBC is spending YOUR cash". Daily Express. 
  17. ^ "Songs Of Praise in Calais is political propaganda". Daily Express. 11 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Elgot, Jessica (12 August 2015). "Church of England defends Songs of Praise filmed in Calais migrant camp". The Guardian. 
  19. ^ Geybels, Hans; Mels, Sara; Walrave, Michel (2009). Faith and Media: Analysis of Faith and Media: Representation and Communication. Peter Lang. pp. 165–.  
  20. ^ Beck, Richard; Worden, David (2002). Truth, Spirituality and Contemporary Issues. Heinemann. pp. 68–.  
  21. ^ Bradley, Ian C. (2005). You've Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the Musical. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 4–.  
  22. ^ Hofstede, David (2011-11-09). 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows On DVD. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 318–.  

External links

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