Songs of Praise

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Songs of Praise
Songs of Praise.png
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) David Taviner (Feb 2014-)[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 airing 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. It is the most-watched British religious television programme.[citation needed]

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[edit]

It has had many regular presenters over the years including Geoffrey Wheeler, Michael Barratt, Cliff Michelmore, Sir Harry Secombe (after Highway ended), 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 Pam Rhodes, Sally Magnusson, Diane-Louise Jordan, Aled Jones, David Grant, Bill Turnbull, Claire McCollum, Connie Fisher and Dan Walker.[7]


It is now usually broadcast at tea time on Sundays, normally between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., and it usually includes congregations from churches and cathedrals singing famous hymns whilst the presenter explores that week's theme. While focusing on hymns, in recent years the shows have become more diverse in its content, typically with a different theme for each show, including special programmes for days such as Remembrance Sunday and celebrating the lives of famous British Christians, including the late Dame Thora Hird and Sir Harry Secombe. The programme often airs more contemporary themed episodes than it did in the past, featuring modern Christian artists such as Tim Hughes, Stuart Townend, Lou Fellingham/Phatfish and YFriday.


Outside the United Kingdom, Songs of Praise is regularly shown in the Netherlands, Australia (ABC), New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Canada and South Africa. One of the few peak-time free-to-air religious programmes in Europe (with its Dutch equivalent, Nederland Zingt, broadcast by the EO; and S4C's Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Canmol which predates Songs of Praise by a few months and still runs regularly).


The programme began in October 1961 from 18.15 to 18.55 when BBC and ITV both had to show religious programmes from 6.15 to 7.25 on Sunday evenings, 'the God slot',[8] which was more formally known as the Restricted Period.[3] (Its ITV equivalent, Highway, was dropped in the early 1990s). Initially it would be followed by a five minute charity appeal, then a religious discussion programme called Meeting Point until 19.25, when followed by What's My Line?. Also on Sunday morning an actual church service was broadcast live from 10.30.

The programme was the idea of the then Assistant Controller of Programmes at the BBC, Donald Baverstock. During its run until 2011, Songs of Praise has visited over 1,800 churches, cathedrals and chapels, with worshippers having sung over 12,500 hymns. On 2 October 2011, it presented its fiftieth anniversary edition, with guests including Andrea Bocelli, LeAnn Rimes, Katherine Jenkins and Beverley Knight. The programme's most popular hymn is How Great Thou Art.


From October 1962 it moved to 18:50, with the religious discussion programme beforehand. In May 1976 the BBC and IBA announced that Sunday evening would no longer have a set time for religious programmes, after the Central Religious Advisory Committee decreed; the BBC announced that Songs of Praise would be broadcast from 18.40 to 19.15, ten minutes earlier than previously, but the preceding topical discussion programme (entitled Anno Domini since 1974) would be moved to Sunday nights at 22.15 from April 1977, when it was branded Everyman, and would run until 2005, often alternating (from 1979 to 2000) with Heart of the Matter. The hour-long live Sunday Worship programme on BBC1 was at 12.00.

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]

From 1977 to 1997, it was repeated during the following week, usually on Monday afternoons, initially on BBC1 and later on BBC2. On 3 January 1993 the main programme time moved to 18.25 on Sunday, finishing at 19.00. From January 1996 it moved to 18.10, and gradually it has been shown in a slightly earlier slot in recent years, although the precise time of broadcast has become more variable from week to week.

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.


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


Events have included a 3 October 1982 broadcast from Strangeways Prison (the first time it had broadcast from a prison),[citation needed] a 2 January 1983 broadcast from the Falkland Islands,[citation needed] 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]

Reception and impact[edit]

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.[16] 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".[17] 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".[18]

The show appeared as a feature within episodes of the BBC comedy television series The Vicar of Dibley in which David Hofstede called the choir auditions for the show one of the great moments of season one,[19] and The Brittas Empire.[citation needed]

Recording Songs of Praise in 1988

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chinese New Year" BBC website - first appearance in role (promoted from Series Editor) in Credits section
  2. ^ "D-Day: 70 Years On" BBC website - first appearance in role (promoted from Producer) in Credits section
  3. ^ a b BBC: History of Songs of Praise[dead link]
  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. ^ David Brockman "Behind the Scenes: The God Slot", Transdifusion, 30 April 2009
  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–. ISBN 9780823231898. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  13. ^ Rees, Robin (1993-01-01). Weary and Ill at Ease: A Survey of Clergy and Organists. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 45–. ISBN 9780852442319. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  14. ^ a b c Bradley, Ian (2007-01-15). Believing in Britain: The Spiritual Identity of 'Britishness'. I.B.Tauris. pp. 225–. ISBN 9781845113261. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  15. ^ "BBC defends early Easter filming". BBC News. 26 March 2007. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ Beck, Richard; Worden, David (2002). Truth, Spirituality and Contemporary Issues. Heinemann. pp. 68–. ISBN 9780435306922. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Hofstede, David (2011-11-09). 5000 Episodes and No Commercials: The Ultimate Guide to TV Shows On DVD. Crown Publishing Group. pp. 318–. ISBN 9780307799500. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 

External links[edit]