Pam Rhodes is best known for presenting the BBC’s Songs of Praise program. She also hosts Hearts & Hymns on Premier Christian Radio and is the author of eight books.
She has just released a new compilation titled Hearts & Hymns, which contains 30 of Britain’s most-loved hymns.
1. How did your new compilation come about?
I have been presenting Hearts and Hymns on Premier Christian Radio for the last 600 weeks, and it’s a celebration of hymns based on my love of hymns that’s developed over 25 years of working on Songs of Praise.
2. What is it about hymns that you love so much?
I’m an absolute anorak about hymns, I think they are tremendously powerful. I think it’s a combination of music and words which means they stay as a resource, they’re like a prayer in your pocket.
In a tough time when perhaps you can’t think of the right words of prayer or a quote from the Bible alludes you, ‘Abide with me, fast forth eventide the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.’ You’ll never forget those words because they’re indelible in your mind.
Whether it’s the psalmist writing 3000 years ago or Graham Kendrick or Stuart Townend writing today, I reckon they get up in the morning and think ‘I feel weary of the world today’ or ‘I feel in need of guidance or comfort or protection’ and that they express in beautiful words their feelings.
3. Was it difficult to just choose 30?
There were so many I could have chosen.
On the traditional side, when I first started on Songs of Praise the very last question I always had to ask during the interviews was ‘and what hymn have you chosen’ and the fact is most people chose one of ten hymns because they are the favourites.
I’ve got things on this compilation like How Great Thou Art which has been the nation’s favourite hymn ever since I’ve been on Songs of Praise. But then there are modern classics too like The Power of the Cross.
I do feel that sometimes you can hear words afresh if they are put to new music and there are some examples of that on here. Love Divine, Blessed Assurance. They are put with different music, given a modern touch but just as powerful and in some ways you hear them again as if for the first time.
4. What’s your favourite hymn?
I do love Dear Lord and Father of Mankind written by John Greenleaf Whittier who was a Quaker so of course he’d probably be turning in his grave if he actually thought we were singing his words because he felt that music or emotion of any kind got in the way of true connection with God.
5. Songs of Praise has been going 50 years since last October. Why has it been so successful?
We’re aware of the fact that in order to keep that prime time slot on Sunday tea time we have to make sure Song of Praise is always the best we can make it.
It’s always a feast on the eye, all of the pictures are lovingly collected, the interviews done with great sensitivity and the music is to a wonderful standard.
6. The BBC has been criticized for not investing enough in religious programming? What’s your view on that?
We are now a multi faith country and the BBC has a large department that recognises that and is more active on a broader base than those of us who are only looking only from a Christian point of view.
I’m warmed by the fact that the Chief Rabbi in the UK and across the commonwealth Jonathan Sacks, who I think is a wonderful man, once said to me ‘there is only one God, but he speaks many different languages’.
I think there are as many different languages spoken by God as there are people there to hear. We all hear God in our own way. Our faith background might be different but our relationship with God is a very personal one.
7. What’s your novel With Hearts and Hymns and Voices about?
It came about because I was asked to write a factual book about the making of Songs of Praise. I felt that it would have been unfair to repeat stories that had been shared with me by people I had interviewed on the program some years later when I hadn’t been in touch to know what had happened since.
I put it into fictional form so a bit of it is made up but most of it is fairly realistic to give an idea of what Songs of Praise is like behind the scenes.
8. What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?
Several of Fiona Castle’s books are a wonderful collection of Christian thought, inspirational words, some from the Bible, some prayer, some stories and some hymns.
I find myself going back to those books time and time again because they are full of everything you need. Every time I open them I find I hit the right page of whatever I need for that day.
9. What has God been teaching you recently?
What I need to always remember with God is his greatness, his power and his hugeness because he feels very personal to me. A constant companion throughout the day. I forget the other part of him, the greatness of him. That’s something I definitely need to learn.
10. What is Biggleswade Cat Lodge about?
I live in Biggleswade and we have a great big 400 year-old barn full of cats. We have a lot of RSPCA cats. About a week and a half ago we had 24 cats come in on one day. They came from an old lady’s house. They had 31 in there who had all been interbreeding. They had never been out of the house.
They were with us before they went to the RSPCA centres around the country, but to see them clean and healthy was a great pleasure. They’ll be fine and will get lovely homes. It’s a very fulfilling and rewarding work.
March 19th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes