Launched on 1 October 1961, the BBC’s experimental programme of hymns and church singing was due to run for just 6 weeks.
2248 editions later, Songs of Praise celebrated 50 years of broadcasting history with almost 7000 voices and the nation’s best loved congregational gems at the home of TV broadcasting, the affectionately remembered 'Ally Pally'.
Big names for a big birthday
Adding their voices to the celebrations, country music’s LeAnn Rimes, gospel star Beverley Knight, tenor Andrea Bocelli and series favourite Katherine Jenkins joined the Alexandra Palace capacity crowd to rejoice in 50 years of singing praise.
Recorded on 25 September 2011, the Ally Pally Songs of Praise was the third of 3 commemorative BBC broadcast events celebrating the world’s longest running and best loved religious programme.
Back to where it all began
For the 50th anniversary broadcast, series favourite of more than 600 broadcasts, Pam Rhodes, took the cameras back to the first of the more than 1800 churches, chapels and cathedrals that have hosted Songs of Praise.
For the second commemorative programme, Aled Jones recalled the 1977 introduction of inspirational interviews and the extraordinary lives in fascinating locations helped to establish Songs of Praise as the nations best loved faith inspired TV programme.
Songs and stories to remember
Stories of faith amid hardship, quiet resilience and sacrificial dedication to a cause have lifted viewers’ hearts and given testimony to God’s continuing presence among his people. Travelling around the country, hundreds of congregations have given voice to the best loved hymns and songs.
Worldwide, memorable venues include Sydney Opera House, Vatican basilicas and countries as far apart as Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Brazil. Memorable personalities including Cliff Richard, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Desmond Tutu and members of the British Royal family have all appeared on the programme.
Evocative sounds and venues
Celebrity soloists and musicians, together with children’s choirs, choral societies and church choirs from around the world have given Songs of Praise its voice. But, for the great majority of the programme’s followers, Songs of Praise is about the weekly singing of favourite words and melodies by congregations of ordinary church goers.
A Sunday night highlight for active church goers, the broadcast has always been a lifeline for many unable to reach a place of worship. In its 50 year history to date, 201 Songs of Praise presenters have hosted an estimated 12,500 songs and hymns.
Best loved songs and singers CD
To celebrate 50 years of Songs of Praise, The BBC released a new double CD collection of more than 40 best loved hymns and songs from the series. Congregational classics include 'Amazing Grace', 'Love Divine', 'All Loves Excelling' and 'When I Survey The Wondrous Cross'.
York Minster and King’s College Cambridge are among the church choirs lending their voices to the congregational singing. Songs of Praise regulars including Libera and the Skelmanthorpe Male Choir add to the experience of celebration in this remarkable achievement of Christian witness in song.
Songs of Praise 50 - The Trivia Files
The highest audience figure for Songs of Praise was in 1988 when 11.4 million people watched the Christmas Day broadcast from All Souls, Langham Place, London. By far the most popular hymn on Songs of Praise is ‘How Great Thou Art’.
Quick Guide to Celebrating 50 years of Songs of Praise CD
What is it?
- More than 40 of the nation’s favourite songs and hymns on 2 CD.
- Celebrating 50 years and more than 2000 editions Songs of Praise.
- The best known voices and choirs seen and heard on the programmes.
What will it do for me?
- Uplifting and inspire with congregational and choral hymn singing.
- Relive the best of the best loved Christian music TV programme.
- GIve you a gift for anyone unable to reach a place of worship.
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
Singing together is one of the oldest expressions of Christian worship, and an effective way of forming a sense of community and purpose within worshipping communities.
- How important was the experience of congregational singing in your coming to faith, is it a factor in why you do – or don’t, still go to church?
- With community singing a recent TV feature, what should a church do – or not do, to make congregational singing more appealing and inclusive?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips - beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
February 26th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison