Songs of Praise
Songs of Praise is a BBC Television religious programme that presents Christian hymns sung in churches of varying denominations from around the UK. Since 2016, its presenters have included former BBC Breakfast co-presenter Bill Turnbull and Good Morning Britain sports editor Sean Fletcher.
|Songs of Praise|
|Created by||Donald Baverstock|
|Presented by||Aled Jones|
Diane Louise Jordan
(See full list)
|Theme music composer||Herbert Chappell (1980-1986)|
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 (2015–)|
|Editor(s)||Matthew Napier (2014–)|
|Running time||35 minutes|
|Production company(s)||BBC Television (in-house) (1961–2016)|
BBC Studios (2016–2017)
Nine Lives Media (2017–)
Avanti Media (2017-)
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||1 October 1961 –|
|Songs of Praise|
The series was first broadcast in October 1961. On that occasion, the venue was the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cardiff. It is one of the longest running series of its genre on television anywhere in the world.
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, Ann Widdecombe and the late Caron Keating.
The current main presenters are Aled Jones, Katherine Jenkins, Sean Fletcher, JB Gill, David Grant, Bill Turnbull, Pam Rhodes, Sally Magnusson, Diane-Louise Jordan, Claire McCollum, Connie Fisher, Dan Walker and Kate Bottley.
From November 2014, the programme format changed, adopting more of a magazine format. The stated intention was to evolve the series to reflect the wider Christian audience across the country. Music remains at the heart of the series, but is now 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.
Until the relaxation of broadcasting hours restrictions in the autumn of 1972, it was regulated by the government under the control of the Postmaster General that all television broadcasting on Sunday evenings from 6:15 pm-7:25 pm should be "closed" and used only for religious programming on both BBC and ITV. Until 1958, there was no programming transmitted during this time slot, until a compromise was reached between the churches and the Postmaster General, where religious programming would be acceptable to air in this time slot to avoid people from not attending Sunday evening church services. It was under these restrictions and regulations that Songs of Praise was created.
At its inception in October 1961, the programme was broadcast at 6:15 pm. From September 1962, it moved to 6:50 pm and then to 6:40 pm from April 1977. Religious programming was also broadcast on ITV in the same time slot, but this custom ended in late December 1992. From January 1993, the programme's scheduled broadcast time was changed to 6:25 pm and then 6:10 pm 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 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) and Sweet Inspiration (1993–94).
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.
The programme staged its largest event at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on the first Sunday of 2000. 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"
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.
The 16 August 2015 broadcast, filmed at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in the Calais jungle, received criticism from the media including the Daily Express, who stated the BBC was "out of touch" and that the show had "political propaganda". In response, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds Nick Baines and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby defended the BBC's decision as reflecting the Church's teachings on poverty. Meanwhile, the Reverend Steve Chalke, former Songs of Praise presenter and well-known Christian social activist, wrote:
The programme's producers have been lambasted on social media as well as by sections of the press and a handful of politicians for 'wasting taxpayer's money' and, for that greatest of all religious sins, of 'becoming political'. In my view, however, tackling this complex humanitarian issue is exactly what Songs of Praise should be doing. The role of the television show, which is essentially about Christian faith, means the only way in which it can authentically fulfil its mandate is to deal with the tough issues of life, alongside the joys, faced by individuals as well as whole communities. Back in the '90s I was a presenter for Songs of Praise. Amongst the shows that I remain most proud of were those we made in South Africa, soon after Nelson Mandela was elected president, about the struggle against Apartheid, and another special programme I co-presented with Sally Magnusson the weekend after the Dunblane school massacre.
Reception and impact
In the early 1990s, the weekly reach of the show was about 25% of the British population. In 1998, the average viewership was between 5 and 6 million. Because of the long-time transmission of Songs of Praise following the Sunday evening news, the time slot has become known as the "God slot". The show has been accused of "abandon[ing] its long-standing commitment to straightforward hymns and 'ordinary' people talking about their often very extraordinary lives and faith and becoming increasingly obsessed with celebrities and soft-focus schmaltz".
The show featured in episodes of the BBC comedy television series The Vicar of Dibley.
In 2016, as part of their new charter agreement, the BBC announced that they would put all their programmes which were due for recommission out to competitive tender over an eleven-year period, with independent companies invited to bid to make the shows. A Question of Sport was the first programme to go through this process with BBC Studios winning the commission and retaining the rights to make the show in house. Songs of Praise followed shortly after but on 10 March 2017 it was announced that the tender had been won by two independent production companies; Avanti Media based in Cardiff and Nine Lives Media located in Manchester who would be producing the show for the next three years as a co-production.
- "BBC - Katherine Jenkins OBE makes her TV series presenting debut on Songs Of Praise - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk.
- "HRH The Prince of Wales, British Black Gospel Music and Abide With Me" BBC website – first appearance in role in Credits section
- "D-Day: 70 Years On" BBC website – first appearance in role (promoted from Producer) in Credits section
- Singh, Anita (10 March 2017). "BBC loses Songs of Praise to independent production company" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- "BBC: History of Songs of Praise". Archived from the original on 10 November 2010.
- "Songs of Praise: Celebrating 50 Years". BBC. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- "The Hitman and Hymn", BBC Press Office, 7 October 2002.
- "Ann's happy to be Strictly a singleton". thisisstaffordshire.co.uk. 5 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
- "JLS star JB Gill scoops Songs Of Praise presenting role". Mail Online. 17 August 2017.
- "Meet the Presenters", BBC Songs of Praise website. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "Songs of Praise to change format as part of relaunch", BBC News. 16 November 2014.
- "The God Slot - Programming - Transdiffusion Broadcasting System". www.transdiffusion.org.
- "Dame Thora Hird obituary", Telegraph, 17 March 2003
- "Home on Sunday", BFI
- "Sweet Inspiration", BFI
- Basile, Salvatore (2010). Fifth Avenue Famous: The Extraordinary Story of Music at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Fordham Univ Press. pp. 270–. ISBN 9780823231898. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
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- Bradley, Ian (15 January 2007). Believing in Britain: The Spiritual Identity of 'Britishness'. I.B.Tauris. pp. 225–. ISBN 9781845113261. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- "BBC defends early Easter filming". BBC News. 26 March 2007.
- Shendrick, Giles (11 August 2015). "Songs of Praise in Calais EXPOSED – this is how the BBC is spending YOUR cash". Daily Express.
- "Songs Of Praise in Calais is political propaganda". Daily Express. 11 August 2015.
- Elgot, Jessica (12 August 2015). "Church of England defends Songs of Praise filmed in Calais migrant camp". The Guardian.
- BST, Steve Chalke Tue 11 Aug 2015 10:08. "Songs of Praise in Calais: We cannot divorce religion from politics". www.christiantoday.com.
- Geybels, Hans; Mels, Sara; Walrave, Michel (2009). Faith and Media: Analysis of Faith and Media: Representation and Communication. Peter Lang. pp. 165–. ISBN 9789052015347. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- Beck, Richard; Worden, David (2002). Truth, Spirituality and Contemporary Issues. Heinemann. pp. 68–. ISBN 9780435306922. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- Bradley, Ian C. (2005). You've Got to Have a Dream: The Message of the Musical. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 4–. ISBN 9780664228545. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- Hofstede, David (9 November 2011). 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows On DVD. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 318–. ISBN 9780307799500. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
- "Alles van Songs of Praise kijk de op npo.nl". Nederlandse Publieke Omroep. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
- "Televisual: BBC Studios loses tender for Songs of Praise". 10 March 2017. Retrieved 11 March 2017.