Christmas in Winchester Songs of Praise


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Christmas in Winchester

Songs of Praise presenters each choose their favourite carol, and some are sung by candlelight in Winchester to celebrate Christmas.


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This week,

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as we prepare for Christmas, I'm in Winchester's Christmas market,

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which nestles in the shadow of the city's magnificent cathedral.

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Also, you'll find out which are our presenters' favourite carols.

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Welcome to Songs Of Praise.

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In today's programme, here in Winchester,

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I discover the ancient origin of the word dole...

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-Hello. Please can I have my dole?

-Certainly can.

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..I meet Debbie Thrower, the former Songs Of Praise presenter who

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introduced a brand-new idea to the series 25 years ago.

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For the very first time, Songs Of Praise put

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the hymn words along the bottom of the screen.

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..and our presenters choose their favourite carols.

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Many of our carols in this programme come from the Church of St Cross.

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It's part of the Hospital of St Cross - almshouses that have

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provided food and shelter here in Winchester for hundreds of years.

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I'll be finding out more later.

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But first, I want to share my favourite carol with you.

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I've chosen Once In Royal David's City because, back in 1986,

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when I was 12, I was head chorister of my school choir and,

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at our carol service in Chelmsford Cathedral,

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it was my job to sing the first verse solo.

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Halfway through, I looked across and I saw my mum,

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and she was crying her eyes out.

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It was emotional, but they were tears of pride and joy.

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That's a memory that will stay with me for ever.

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Sounding like something from a Dickens novel,

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the Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty nestles

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at the bottom of St Catherine's Hill on the outskirts of Winchester.

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It's said to be one of England's oldest charitable institutions.

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The hospital was founded in 1132

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as a haven place of refuge for poor men that had nowhere

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to live, so they were given this accommodation.

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Traditionally, they were known as the Brothers -

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a title still in use today.

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A lot of people think that the Brothers are monks and, of course, they're not -

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they're laypeople that live in this community, which is

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rather monastic to look at, and their main obligation

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is that they must attend morning office in the chapel each day.

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And, I suppose, that's why people think that they must be monks.

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Let us heartily rejoice...

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The Brothers keep many of the old traditions of St Cross alive.

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Brother Tony Dyson...

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The Pay Parade is a very ancient custom and, in days of yore,

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of course, they were given money in order to look after themselves.

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But, nowadays, it's simply an old tradition and, each Monday,

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after matins, they're given a leather purse each with

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a pound coin in although, on the first Monday in the month,

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they get £1.50, so they feel very rich then!

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So this place is simply carrying on that Christian tradition

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of looking after those people in need.

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And there's another tradition still in practice here at St Cross

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that's familiar, even in the 21st century - receiving the dole.

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-Hello. Please can I have my dole?

-Certainly can.

-Mm! I can smell it.

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It smells very interesting. It looks quite basic. What is it, Catherine?

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It's actually a small portion of beer and some bread.

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It would be strong beer because, in the medieval times,

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when the tradition started, water was not fit for purpose,

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and white bread because they believed, in them times,

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that white was the best, and pilgrims had to have the best.

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Well, I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth,

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so let me try some. Mm! Gosh, that's got a kick to it, hasn't it?

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The bread looks really basic,

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but I could see how pilgrims who have made that long journey on foot -

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-well, this would warm their hearts, wouldn't it?

-It would.

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Originally, they'd have got a day's supply,

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so it would have been a small loaf of bread and a flagon of beer.

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-Yeah, this isn't a day's supply!

-No, just a token today!

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-It won't last me a minute!

-Yeah.

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-Well, thank you very much for the dole.

-That's all right. Thank you.

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Our next carol is from here at St Cross

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and is chosen by Katherine Jenkins.

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O Little Town Of Bethlehem is a carol that reminds me

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of Christmas and particularly midnight mass

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and being a chorister back in Neath in South Wales

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and being allowed to stay up late enough to sing all the carols

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and, of course, that amazing descant.

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Well, I hope that brings back some fond memories for Katherine.

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Next up, someone who knows a thing or two about carols -

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it's the Reverend Kate Bottley.

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My absolute favourite Christmas carol is

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It Came Upon A Midnight Clear,

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partly because we don't sing it very often,

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but mostly because it's got that wonderful line in it that says,

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"Hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing."

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And it reminds me that, in the middle of the chaos and the craziness of Christmas,

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it's to stop and remember the real message.

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From relatively modest beginnings, the Christmas market here

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in Winchester Cathedral's historic close is now in its 12th year...

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-It's really warming. Thank you.

-Thank you.

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..and attracts 500,000 visitors every Christmas.

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Well, I'm glad I'm here because I've still got one or two gifts to find.

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While I have a look around, here's Josie d'Arby to tell us

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about her favourite carol.

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I've chosen When A Child Is Born.

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This carol is so beautiful,

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I actually play it all year round because the birth of Christ and

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his presence on Earth remains the best news

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and the greatest gift ever.

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# A ray of hope flickers in the sky

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# A tiny star lights up way up high

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# All across the land dawns a brand-new morn

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# This comes to pass when a child is born

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# A silent wish sails the seven seas

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# The wind of change whispers in the tree

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# All the walls of doubt crumble Tossed and torn

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# This comes to pass when a child is born

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# A rosy hue settles all around

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# You've got the feel you're on solid ground

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# And for a spell or two no-one feels forlorn

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# This comes to pass when a child is born

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# It's all a dream, an illusion now

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# It must come true Sometime soon somehow

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# All across the land dawns a brand-new morn

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# This comes to pass when a child is born

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# This comes to pass

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# When a child is born

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# When a child is born. #

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The Reverend Canon Roland Riem is Vice Dean of Winchester Cathedral

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and was involved in creating the markets here.

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Roland, you've brought me to this life-size Nativity scene.

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It's the focus of the market. Why have you got one here?

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This is a cathedral market and it's not just a town market.

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It's in the shadow of our cathedral church, and we have this here

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to remind us of the fact that Jesus is the centre of all our giving.

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So, long before Christmas got commercial,

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reminding us that there was a really important birth?

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Yes, and I think we're all looking for a new beginning,

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and all the celebrations that we have at Christmas are about getting back to something

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that's real and true and peaceful at the heart of our life.

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And, when you think about the Christmas scene,

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you think about that wonderful baby bringing peace

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and joy to the world, and I think that's what it's about.

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Now, it's on the close. You live on the close.

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What's it like, having a market outside your front door?

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Well, it's busy and, sometimes,

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we wish that we were a little less crowded but, actually, we think of

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what good it does for our cathedral, supporting its ministry

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and mission, and all the fun that people have

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because Christmas is about joy as well as anything else.

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-What sort of shops have you got here?

-We've got an unusual blend.

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We've got even a charity shop that changes every few days,

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where we give the charities an opportunity

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to raise funds for their life.

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We've got nuns from Minsk who bring Christmas wares every year.

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The big question for me is, will I find something for my wife?

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You certainly will, and it's a shame she isn't here to direct you!

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For our next carol, it's time

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for one of our longest-serving presenters to choose.

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My carol is one of the world's favourites which,

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for a long time, was thought to have been

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written by the man behind the Reformation, Martin Luther.

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Except that probably wasn't true.

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In actual fact, it was written about 400 years later

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in the 1880s by members of the Lutheran Church in America

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for their children to sing in a Christmas concert.

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What is true is that this is a carol that brings out

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the child in all of us - Away In A Manger.

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Have you heard your favourite carol yet? If not, there are more to come.

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Here's Connie Fisher with her Christmastide favourite,

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and maybe this one will be yours, too.

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For me, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas

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without hearing my favourite carol.

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It reminds me of growing up, singing in the Pembrokeshire Youth Choir.

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In The Bleak Midwinter -

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we used to sing it at every Christmas concert, and I loved it.

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# In the bleak midwinter

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# Frosty wind made moan

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# Earth stood hard as iron

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# Water like a stone

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# Snow had fallen, snow on snow

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# Snow on snow

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# In the bleak midwinter

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# Long ago

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# What can I give him

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# Poor as I am?

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# If I were a shepherd

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# I would bring a lamb

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# If I were a wise man

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# I would do my part

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# Yet what I can I give him

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# Give my heart. #

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We've had an amazing 222 Songs Of Praise presenters

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in our 56 years on air,

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and one of them is now part of the cathedral community here.

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Welcome to Songs Of Praise from Westminster Abbey.

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Twice a week, the Abbey Choir

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sings for visitors in the nave, and someone who was a chorister...

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Debbie, it's lovely to meet you.

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What have you been doing since you were presenting on Songs Of Praise?

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I've become a lay canon here at Winchester Cathedral,

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a member of Chapter as well, which is

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the sort of executive board which helps run the cathedral.

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What does being a lay canon entail?

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Well, it's a voluntary role, but you are a member of Chapter,

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so about eight people run the cathedral, if you like,

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and several of us are laypeople, so not members of the clergy.

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But it's just wonderful to be involved in everything,

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really, from recruitment to how you run the Christmas market.

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And it's quite a big jump from being a presenter.

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What inspired you to make that move?

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Well, I've always had a strong Christian faith.

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While I was still working full-time in broadcasting,

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I trained as a licensed lay minister, a reader,

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and, since then, I've also become a chaplain to older people.

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And it's really about supporting people, older people,

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people in the second half of life, in the community.

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So we do go into care homes,

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but we also visit people who are struggling to live independently.

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Now, I'm one of the newest Songs Of Praise presenters.

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-It's a real pleasure meeting you and hearing your stories.

-And you, too.

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I've met some inspiring people and been to some incredible places.

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Can you pick out one highlight from your time on Songs Of Praise?

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Oh, I loved my time on Songs Of Praise.

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I think one of the most memorable was the time in Olney

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when we actually, for the very first time, Songs Of Praise

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put the hymn words along the bottom of the screen.

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Tonight, we begin a new chapter in the history of Songs Of Praise.

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Over the past few years, you, our viewers,

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have been writing to us in ever greater numbers,

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asking for the words of the hymns to be put on the screen.

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Well, I'm happy to announce

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that from tonight, the words will be displayed on the screen.

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There was some reluctance, was it going to be a good move or not?

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But, actually, people now think that they've always been there.

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Now, all the Songs Of Praise presenters are picking

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their favourite carols this week.

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As a former Songs Of Praise presenter, I think you can, too.

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Oh, what an honour.

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Well, what I'd like to pick is John Rutter's

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Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.

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# Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

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# I would my true love did so chance

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# To see the legend of my play

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# To call my true love to my dance

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# Sing, oh! My love Oh! My love, my love, my love

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# This have I done for my true love

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# Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

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# I would my true love did so chance

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# To see the legend of my play

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# To call my true love to my dance

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# Sing, oh! My love Oh! My love, my love, my love

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# This have I done for my true love

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# Then was I born of a virgin pure

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# Of her I took fleshly substance

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# Thus was I knit to man's nature

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# To call my true love to my dance

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# Sing, oh! My love Oh! My love, my love, my love

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# This have I done for my true love

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# In a manger laid and wrapped I was

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# So very poor, this was my chance

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# Between an ox and a silly poor ass

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# To call my true love to my dance

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# Sing, oh! my love Oh! My love, my love, my love

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# This have I done for my true love

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# Tomorrow shall be my dancing day

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# I would my true love did so chance

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# To see the legend of my play

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# To call my true love to my dance

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# Sing, oh! my love Oh! My love, my love, my love

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# This have I done for my true love

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# This have I done for my true love. #

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The Winchester Cathedral choristers in fine voice there.

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Now, singing so many carol services over Christmas,

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it's a busy time for them.

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But right in the heart of the Christmas market, here is

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an ice rink, and who can blame the choristers for having some fun?

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For our next carol, it's over to JB Gill,

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another new presenter on the Songs Of Praise team.

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Let's find out what he has chosen.

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I grew up loving Christmas,

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and one of my favourite parts was always going to the Nativity play.

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I used to enjoy being a part of them,

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and now that I have my own little boy,

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I'm going to love him being involved in his first Nativity play,

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and singing, hopefully,

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While Shepherds Watch as well.

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Next week, it's Christmas Eve,

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and we'll be celebrating with The Big Sing

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from the Royal Albert Hall in London

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so there'll be more of your best-loved carols,

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and special performances from Katherine Jenkins and JB Gill.

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Well, my time here in Winchester is almost up.

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We're back at the Church of St Cross for our final carol,

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one of the nation's favourites, O Come All Ye Faithful.

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Until next week, goodbye.

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Songs of Praise presenters each choose their favourite carol, and some are sung by candlelight in Winchester to celebrate Christmas. Sean Fletcher visits the Hospital of St Cross to find out about their tradition of giving food to pilgrims, and he catches up with former presenter Debbie Thrower, now a lay canon in Winchester Cathedral.

Music: Once in Royal David's City - Church of St Cross, Winchester O Little Town of Bethlehem - Church of St Cross, Winchester It Came Upon the Midnight Clear - Romsey Abbey When a Child Is Born - Hackney Empire Away in a Manger - Church of St Cross, Winchester In the Bleak Midwinter - Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day - Winchester Cathedral Choristers O Come All Ye Faithful - Church of St Cross Winchester.