17/04/2016 Songs of Praise


17/04/2016

As HM the Queen reaches her 90th birthday on Thursday, Pam Rhodes finds out more about her faith and we reveal some surprising facts about England's patron saint, St George.


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Transcript


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She's the longest reigning monarch in British history

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and, this Thursday, Her Majesty the Queen

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celebrates her 90th birthday.

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In spite of becoming a nonagenarian,

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the Queen still works 40 hours a week,

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and it's that dedication to duty that leads many of us to ask,

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how does she do it?

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On Songs of Praise this week, I've come to Westminster Abbey

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to find out about something very important to Her Majesty.

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Something which has sustained and inspired her down the years,

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her personal faith.

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And I'll be meeting the organist honoured at this year's

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Royal Maundy ceremony for his five decades of service.

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I suppose really the 50 years has been one long Songs of Praise.

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HE LAUGHS

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To mark St George's Day, I'm at Windsor Castle to find out

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more about the man himself and his royal connections.

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And later I'll be giving you information about our brand-new

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competition to design a Christmas card in aid of Children In Need.

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Our music today reflects some of the Queen's favourite hymns

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and there will be a rousing performance from Katherine Jenkins.

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But we start with a hymn that was sung here in 1947

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at the wedding of the Queen and Prince Philip

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and, at that time, this tune was virtually unknown.

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So, it is thanks to her that it has now become so popular.

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It was here in Westminster Abbey in 1953

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that Her Majesty the Queen was crowned.

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It was a day full of pomp and ceremony,

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a celebration for the whole country and for the wider Commonwealth.

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Six months earlier, as part of her Christmas broadcast,

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the Queen spoke to the nation on the radio.

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-QUEENS ADDRESS:

-I want to ask you all,

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whatever your religion may be,

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to pray for me on that day.

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To pray that God may give me wisdom and strength

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to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making.

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What is clear from that early broadcast is the emphasis

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the Queen places on her faith in God.

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So, to mark her 90th birthday, three Christian charities have

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published a special book exploring the significance of her beliefs.

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One of the authors is Mark Greene,

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and advising him is the Queen's Head of Royal Chaplains.

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So, Mark, the Queen has written the foreword for your book.

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Completely thrilled. Gobsmacked, surprised. Unbelievable honour.

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And very unusual, of course.

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Extremely unusual.

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I think she very rarely provides forewords to books, particularly

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about herself, which perhaps suggests how much this means to her.

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Well, it all happened here, didn't it?

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The Coronation, right here at Westminster Abbey.

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Now, she spoke about solemn promises.

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What would those promises have been?

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Basically, she promised to serve God and to serve her neighbour.

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In other words, all the citizens of her extensive, worldwide kingdom.

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And I think in everything she does, that's what she sees it as.

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I'm serving people, I'm serving the Commonwealth.

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I'm seeking to honour them, and celebrate them.

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And, in doing that, she was basically being obedient

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to the two great commandments in the Bible

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which was given to her, of course, in the service.

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To love God with all her heart and soul and mind and strength

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and to love her neighbour as herself.

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The Queen often talks about loving thy neighbour.

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I suppose sometimes we think of that as doing a kind act for somebody.

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But I think for her it is a very rich understanding of our...

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In a sense, our duty to make the best contribution we possibly

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can to the people around us.

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NATIONAL ANTHEM PLAYS

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For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace,

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whose birth we celebrate today,

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is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.

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When we were researching for the book, my co-author,

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Cath, and I, we read every single one

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of the Queen's Christmas speeches, and a lot of others beside.

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For example, in 2014, there's a beautiful bit about Jesus

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being her anchor and her inspiration.

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So, on the one hand, he's her security, her rock.

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And on the other hand, he's the one, if you like,

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who puts the wind in her sails and helps her move forward

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to face the challenges that she does.

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I think she sees the Church of England as being an organisation,

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an institution, that creates an atmosphere or ethos in the country

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where people of any faith or none can come together,

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can work together, for peace.

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And you hear this from the Chief Rabbi,

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you hear this from other faith leaders.

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Nobody does multi-faith better than the Queen.

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I think what we see in the Queen's life is that she's thought to be

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faithful to her God and faithful to us, to serve us.

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But, as she says in the foreword, to the book,

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he, indeed, has been faithful to her.

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Down the years,

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thousands of entertainers have performed for the Queen,

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including one man who's been singing for her

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since he was a young chorister at St Paul's Cathedral.

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Julian Ovenden, you might recognise him

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from the dashing role he played on Downton Abbey.

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But he has a wonderful singing voice, as you hear on his new album.

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# I guess she's not...

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# She's not for me. #

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So, I know you've sung for the Queen on many occasions,

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from what to what?

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Well, certainly from St Paul's Cathedral,

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from big sort of ceremonial services, to...

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I've done some charity galas, I've done some private events for her

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and, yeah, it's sort of slightly...

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slightly strange, really, to be singing to the Queen

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when she is sort of sat where you are,

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singing up close and personal, but a great privilege.

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And you have a very special date coming up, don't you?

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Amazingly, I've been asked to sing

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at her 90th birthday party at Windsor Castle.

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-On the day?

-On the day, yes.

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I don't think I'll be... Hopefully, I won't be appearing out of a cake.

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But, yes, so that's really a great honour

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and I look forward to it very much.

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But in many ways, you are performing

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for someone who has almost become an old family friend?

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Well, sort of. My father was one of her chaplains for 15 years

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and looked after her spiritual life in Windsor.

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So, did you, therefore, see her in some quite informal situations?

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Yes, there was an event every year

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when she would come to our house for drinks after a carol service,

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which caused great sort of consternation for my mother!

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But, yeah, so you saw her in a slightly different,

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more personal environment.

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So, on Songs of Praise,

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what do you think the Queen would like to hear you sing today?

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Well, I know she's a big fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein

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and so I thought it might be appropriate to do something

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from their great hit Carousel

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and the very famous anthem You'll Never Walk Alone,

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particularly because, I think,

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the themes of the song are...faith,

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a strong sense of faith

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and a sense of determination and perseverance.

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# When you walk through a storm

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# Hold your head up high

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# And don't be afraid of the dark

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# At the end of the storm

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# Is a golden sky

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# And the sweet silver song

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# Of a lark

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# Walk on through the wind

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# Walk on through the rain

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# Though your dreams be tossed and blown

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# Walk on, walk on

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# With hope in your heart

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# And you'll never walk alone

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# You'll never walk alone

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# Walk on, walk on

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# With hope in your heart

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# And you'll never walk alone

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# You'll never walk alone. #

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BRASS BAND PLAYS

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With St George's Day on Saturday,

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Richard Taylor is in Windsor on the trail of England's patron saint.

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On St George's Day, the flag of England's patron saint

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flies above churches up and down the country.

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We've all heard of George and the dragon,

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but did you know that George actually comes from the Middle East,

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or that he is also patron saint

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of Portugal, of Romania and of Russia?

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George has also been named protector of our royal family,

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so what better place to find out more about him

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than St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle?

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So, why did George come to be England's patron saint?

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Well, when England went to war, and it went to war a lot,

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its armies wanted the protection

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and to shout the name of someone really fierce.

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And who could be fiercer than a dragon slayer?

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This book is The Golden Legend. Written in the 13th century,

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it's a collection of lives of the saints

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and with its wild tales of their amazing adventures,

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it was a medieval bestseller and it's in The Golden Legend

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that we hear the most famous story about St George.

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"A town called Silene in Libya found that a terrifying dragon

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"had made its nest in a nearby lake.

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"To appease the monster, every day the townsfolk fed it sheep,

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"or, when sheep ran short, people.

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"They drew lots to decide who would be fed to the dragon

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"and one day the lot fell to the king's daughter.

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"The princess was led to the lake to be eaten

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"whereupon a Christian called George rode by.

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"When the dragon appeared,

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"George pinned it to the ground with his spear, then took a belt,

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"put it around the dragon's neck and led it into the town

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"like a tame puppy, where the townsfolk cried, 'Alas!' "

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I'll bet they did!

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Of course, the story is a fairy tale,

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but it didn't come out of nowhere.

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To find out more, I'm popping just down the road from Windsor

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to Royal Holloway, University of London,

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to meet historian Claire Kennan.

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Why was St George so popular?

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I think because he was seen very much as England's special protector.

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But interestingly, this doesn't happen

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until the late 14th, early 15th century. Up until then,

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he's very much associated with the military orders,

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but in the later Middle Ages,

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we see this transition across into popular culture.

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He is given royal approval by Edward III

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and he is declared, at that point, to be England's patron saint,

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which, of course, catapults him into the public eye.

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What about the dragon?

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The dragon is very much representative,

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in the medieval mind, as all evil,

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so essentially, when St George defeats this dragon,

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he is defeating all the known evil in the world.

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In defending his Christian faith, he was seen as overcoming

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the dangers of being a Christian in that time,

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so I do think that's kind of where the legend could be truthful

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and we could get some glimpses

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of their being a real man who was St George.

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The story of St George and his dragon

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has thrilled and inspired people for centuries

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and it's extraordinary to think

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that there may actually be a man behind the myth,

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someone, perhaps, whose fight with wrongdoing

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was retold as a battle with a dragon.

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Maybe we all have it in us to be dragon slayers.

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And to mark St George's Day,

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what could be more fitting than that most English of hymns, Jerusalem,

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from St George's Chapel?

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The Queen was at St George's Chapel on Maundy Thursday

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to distribute the special coins in the ancient Royal Maundy ceremony.

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In this significant year, 90 men and 90 women

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were chosen in recognition of their Christian service.

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So I've come to Sunderland to meet one of those specially chosen,

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a man who has contributed his musical talents

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to the church for so long

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that when he began, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister

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and soap rationing had just been introduced.

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Ken Jolly has been the organist at St Gabriel's Church for 50 years.

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Ken, how did you first hear about this nomination?

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Well, I got a letter from Buckingham Palace

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and I've been a bit of a lad

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who played jokes on people over the years

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and I thought somebody was playing a joke on me!

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I went with my granddaughter and I was in the chapel

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and I've been in the chapel two or three times

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and, really, it looked absolutely splendid

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and there was organ music beforehand,

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some of which I'd played at various times.

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So, what did you think of the organist?

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Very, very good. Very, very good.

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It was just something that I will never ever forget

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for the rest of my days.

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WHISPERS: You do look smart!

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'As a surprise, we've arranged for Ken

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'to watch the moment he received his Maundy money from the Queen,

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'but word has got out and over 100 family and friends

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'have gathered to celebrate and thank him for his years of service.'

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During the war, I once played eight weddings on a Saturday.

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I benefited with eight guineas that particular day,

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which was a canny bit of money!

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But you've also played for some very moving services,

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including those of your own family?

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Yes, I have. My wife was in the choir

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and they sang the hymn How Great Thou Art

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and she said to me, "Ken, mind, I want that hymn for my funeral

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"and you've got to play it."

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So, when she died, I went up out of the stalls

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and played How Great Thou Art for my wife,

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and I also played What A Wonderful World.

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He's just absolutely amazing, he makes that sing,

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he makes the organ sing.

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He has been a servant of the Lord and Christ in his organ playing

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and in his contribution towards the church,

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there's no doubt about it.

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And he's just so sensitive to the congregation when he's playing

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and he always catches the atmosphere of the service.

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Well, he dedicates so much to this church.

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You know, he's been here 50 years as the organist.

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He takes part in all the weddings, all the funerals.

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He is just fantastic, I love him to pieces!

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You are still playing for services here every Sunday.

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Why do you keep doing it?

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Well, I enjoy it, I do enjoy playing the organ

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and I've been lucky with my hands.

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I have no arthritis,

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so I have got the great Lord to thank for not having arthritis.

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And what is more, I've had a wonderful life.

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No plans to retire, then?

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-Not yet.

-Good.

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Amen!

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THEY LAUGH

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Did you know that the Queen

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writes almost 1,000 Christmas cards every year?

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Oh, I know, far too early to be mentioning Christmas,

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but there is a good reason for it.

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And that reason brings us to the Victoria and Albert Museum

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to see their collection of historic Christmas cards.

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And this is where you come in,

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especially if you like arts and crafts

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because, in partnership with BBC Children In Need,

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we are launching our very own competition

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to design a Christmas card.

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And this is the place to get inspiration,

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from some of the V&A's oldest cards.

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So, what have we here?

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So, this is the first-ever commercial Christmas card,

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developed by Sir Henry Cole, who ran out of time

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sending his Christmas letters.

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Oh, a familiar theme, that is!

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So he commissioned his friend,

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the artist Sir John Horsley,

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to design a card for him in 1843.

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I can't see any sign of baby Jesus there.

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Well, actually, you're absolutely right.

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It is all about the family at Christmas time,

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but there's also the charitable giving on either side.

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So, how did the other more traditional themes

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that we're used to seeing of Christmas develop?

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So, actually, the Victorians really, really liked animals.

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Occasionally you see a Christ figure,

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but mainly it was farm animals, especially pigs.

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For our competition, we are looking for all kinds of

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two-dimensional drawings, illustrations and paintings,

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traditional or modern, religious or simply festive,

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and from all ages, as long as they sum up the spirit of Christmas.

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Well, over to you.

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Can you get creative with your pencils and paints?

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You'll be able to find out all the information you need

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and full terms and conditions on our website.

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There will be ten winning designs

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sold in packs in shops from September,

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proceeds going to Children In Need,

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so good luck and we look forward to seeing

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your Christmassy works of art,

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but before we get too excited about Christmas,

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here is a special performance

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from someone who has sung for the Queen many times.

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# I vow to thee my country

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# All earthly things above

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# Entire and whole and perfect

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# The service of my love

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# The love that asks no question

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# The love that stands the test

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# That lays upon the altar

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# The dearest and the best

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# The love that never falters

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# The love that pays the price

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# The love that makes undaunted

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# The final sacrifice

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# And there's another country

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# I've heard of long ago

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# Most dear to them that love her

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# Most great to them that know

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# We may not count her armies

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# We may not see her king

0:29:580:30:03

# Her fortress is a faithful heart

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# Her pride is suffering

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# And soul by soul and silently

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# Her shining bounds increase

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# And her waves are waves of gentleness

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# And all her paths are peace

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# And all her paths

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# Are peace. #

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Well, it's great to see Katherine in action there

0:31:010:31:03

and, in fact, she'll be back with us in our programme next week

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as one of the judges in the grand final

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of the school choirs competition, so don't miss that.

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But, for today, we've come to our final hymn

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and the chance for me to say,

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on behalf of all of us on Songs of Praise,

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that we wish Your Majesty a very happy birthday.

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As HM the Queen reaches her 90th birthday on Thursday, Pam Rhodes finds out more about her faith and we reveal some surprising facts about England's patron saint, St George.

Music:

The Lord's My Shepherd, performed by the congregation at St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow Great Is Thy Faithfulness, performed by the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral You'll Never Walk Alone, performed by Julian Ovenden Jerusalem, performed by the congregation at St George's Chapel What a Mighty God We Serve, performed by the congregation of St Germain's Church, Birmingham I Vow to Thee My Country, performed by Katherine Jenkins Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation, performed by the congregation at St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen.


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