Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli and Catholic musical group The Priests will form part of the BBC’s religious programming this festive period.
Bocelli, a devout Catholic, and The Priests will join an array of star guests, including Sir Cliff Richard, Katherine Jenkins, The Kingdom Choir and the Choir of St Paul’s, in performing on Songs of Praise: The UK’s Favourite Carol. The programme, which is set to air on the final Sunday in Advent, comes from the glorious surroundings of St Paul’s Cathedral in London and will see Aled Jones count down the top ten carols as voted for in a UK wide online poll.
Meanwhile, Diversity dance star Ashley Banjo will be the narrator of the annual show On Christmas Night, where he will tell the story of the first Christmas from Luke’s Gospel, when angels appeared to shepherds to proclaim the news of Jesus’s birth.
On Christmas Night will also feature a musical performance to close Christmas Day.
Marking Advent on BBC One, Ellie Harrison and Angellica Bell uncover local customs, culture and traditions as they celebrate A Very Country Christmas, with episode one set to air today (Sunday 6th December) at 10.30am on BBC One.
This year will also see the launch of the first joint BBC Radio 2 and Songs of Praise Young Chorister of the Year 2020 competition. From Gorton Monastery in Manchester, the Revd Kate Bottley with Katherine Jenkins and Aled Jones host the search for the best young singers in the country.
There will be live services for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on BBC One as well as the much-loved Carols From King’s on BBC Two.
The traditional Christmas Eve celebration of Midnight Mass will come live from the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, Clifton, Bristol. The Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, will preside and the Mass will be introduced by Canon Bosco MacDonald, Cathedral Dean, who will also preach. Choir members, socially distanced to protect against Covid-19, will sing well-loved carols including O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night and Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.
Radio 4 will broadcast live the yearly Nine Lessons And Carols from King’s College Cambridge, as well as Midnight Mass later in the evening. On Christmas Day listeners can join in a Christmas Service from their homes, recorded at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.
Catholic composer Sir James MacMillan will also consider the faith lives of four very different composers as part of a BBC Radio 4 series Faith In Music, which will air each Monday at 4pm throughout the month of December.
There will also be seasonal reflections and music on BBC Scotland, BBC Wales and BBC Northern Ireland and church services continue every Sunday at 8am across all 39 local radio station.
Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer, said: “This year has been a particularly difficult one for many of us and it’s crucial that the BBC helps to bring people together and connect audiences across the UK to mark this special time of year.
“I hope our religious content this Christmas will give audiences an opportunity to reflect on the year that has gone as well as inspiring and uplifting them with a wonderful mix of traditional carols, festive music, spiritual contemplation and live music across television and radio.”
Picture: Andrea Bocelli. (Giovanni De Sandre).