Dunster by Candlelight Songs of Praise


Dunster by Candlelight

David Grant visits the medieval town of Dunster to take part in their candlelit procession. Plus a performance of O Holy Night by Katie Melua.


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Transcript


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For the fourth Sunday in Advent,

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we're processing back in time to the Middle Ages.

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Welcome to Songs Of Praise where, tonight,

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I'm in the Somerset village where, instead of electricity,

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candles light the high street as thousands of visitors come to

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experience Dunster by candlelight.

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I hear how the Dunster carollers are inspiring the younger

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generation to carry on this age-old tradition.

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THEY SING

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Singer Katie Melua explains how her Eastern European roots have

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-inspired her music.

-Take Carol Of The Bells.

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The original is in Ukrainian.

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And I'm helping hand out Christmas presents with hundreds of

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Santas on motorbikes!

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Merry Christmas!

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For our singing tonight, we have some seasonal favourites,

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including O Holy Night, we have the latest Christmas song from

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Russell Watson, plus some great carols that you can join in with.

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So let's start with The First Nowell from Romsey Abbey.

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Around 10,000 people have converged on this usually quiet

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Somerset village to experience Dunster by candlelight,

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and I tell you what - you can see why.

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-It's great, isn't it?

-Yeah.

-Yeah.

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This year is the 30th anniversary of the festival,

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which celebrates the medieval origins of the village.

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There's been a castle here since the 11th century,

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and it's one of the best examples of a settlement from the Middle Ages.

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But back then, not all was as harmonious as it is today, as

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I found out earlier on when I popped into Dunster's medieval church.

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-Hello, Caroline.

-David, hello. Welcome to St George's.

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It's lovely to be here.

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This is an amazing place,

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and particularly this beautiful partition. What exactly is it?

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This is a rood screen.

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It was put up many hundreds of years ago by the monks, who were

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established here in the 12th century.

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They were Benedictines,

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so the people in the town resented the fact there were

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a few monks who were rich and living on them and used to do

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practical jokes to annoy them.

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They tied the clappers of the bells together,

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they came in and caused trouble.

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And eventually, it got so bad that the bishop decided

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he needed to do something formally about it,

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so he came down in all his pomp and glory and decided to divide

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the church, and this is the division.

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So the monks were on one side and the parishioners were on the other?

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And never the twain shall meet.

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Lovely to see all the candles. What do the candles mean to you?

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Candles are very important.

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They're a focus for prayer and we use it in all sorts of ways

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to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world and we are

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called to be lights on a hilltop and show that we can be hopeful,

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and that's helped by the meaning of Christmas and John's Gospel -

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a light coming into the world, which is Jesus, to go out and

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to make people understand what Christians can do and can be.

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Round the corner from the church is the primary school,

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where they're busy preparing for the procession.

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-Hi, guys.

-Hello.

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-Hello.

-How you doing? Oh, this looks great!

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-This is all for later, yeah? CHILDREN:

-Yeah.

-Fantastic!

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What do you think of the procession?

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I like seeing all the lanterns and lights in the dark sky.

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-It always looks amazing.

-Yeah?

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It feels like you're doing something really important.

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At Christmas, what do you learn in school about Jesus?

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In the Nativity Play, we found out that he was known as the Good

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Shepherd, and they were sent out to look after everyone.

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We learnt that he was born in a stable in Bethlehem and we

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learnt that he was a very special boy, and that he was God's son.

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-This one's for you.

-Oh, thank you! So, we've got our lanterns.

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-Are we ready for the procession? CHILDREN:

-Yes!

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And here we are to light up Dunster.

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Our next hymn is dedicated to Pope Francis,

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who celebrates his 80th birthday this weekend.

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It's written by the Catholic composer Bernadette Farrell

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and is appropriately called Christ, Be Our Light.

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# This is the closest thing to crazy

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I have ever been... #

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Katie Melua's one of Britain's most successful recording artists

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of the millennium,

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selling more than 11 million albums and receiving 56 Platinum awards.

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# If all your dreams were on fire.... #

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For her latest album, she's gone back to her Eastern European

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roots and has teamed up with a choir from her homeland of Georgia.

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# Should I be afraid?

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# Should I ... #

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Katie, thank you for coming on Songs Of Praise.

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What was it that prompted you to return to your birthplace

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in Georgia?

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The biggest thing that triggered it was discovering this choir,

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the Gori Women's Choir, that I heard on Spotify,

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and their sound was unlike anything I'd ever heard before.

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# All your dreams were on fire

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# Which one would you save? #

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The choir unites 24 female voices into sounding like one

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incredible creature.

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They just want the music to be the best that it possibly can,

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'and that's so inspiring.'

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And did cultural and spiritual connections

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-with your heritage mean a lot to you?

-Well, they mean a great deal.

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The discovery that a lot of Christmas carols

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-originate from Eastern Europe was phenomenal.

-Really?

-Yeah.

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So, take Carol of the Bells, which is a great, you know,

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joyous choral piece.

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The original is in Ukrainian.

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SHE SINGS IN UKRAINIAN

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The first song I sang when I moved over to the UK,

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I was nine years old and so that was the first time

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I had my first Western Christmas

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and I didn't speak a word of English,

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but I got to be really welcomed into the society

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and to learn to speak English by joining the choir

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and so when we sang O Holy Night,

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it was one of those incredible musical moments.

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There was a moment where it goes into the refrain section,

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where the chord changes, and it blew my mind and I was nine

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and I was like, "How can something that you can't see

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"and you can't touch affect you so much?"

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And since doing it at the age of nine,

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this is the first time I've covered it.

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# O holy night

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# The stars are brightly shining

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# It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth

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# Long lay the world

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# In sin and error pining

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# Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

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# A thrill of hope

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# The weary world rejoices

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# For yonder breaks

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# A new and glorious morn

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# Fall on your knees

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# O hear the angel voices

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# O night divine

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# O night divine

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# Led by the light

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# Of faith serenely beaming

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# With glowing hearts

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# By His cradle, we stand

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# So, led by a light

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# Of a star sweetly gleaming

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# Here come the men from the Orient land

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# The king of kings

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# Lay thus in lowly manger

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# In all our trials

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# Born to be our friend

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# Fall on your knees

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# O hear the angel voices

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# O night divine

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# O night

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# Night divine

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# Oooooh

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# Ooooooh

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# Ooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh

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# O night divine. #

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The beautiful voice of Katie Melua there.

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Now, young or old,

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we all like a gift or two at Christmas

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and Kate Bottley joined an unusual team of Santas

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on their delivery round, but it's not on a sleigh.

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Morning! Morning, all right?

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Every year, just before Christmas,

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2,000 bikers descend on a car park on the outskirts of Reading.

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This is the Reading Toy Run.

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It delivers thousands of presents

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to the children's charity Barnardos for those most in need.

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Ben Spiller and Sean Stillman first organised this event 31 years ago

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with only a handful of other Christian bikers.

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So, this started with just a few bikes

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in a pub car park and now it's 1,700 bikes and 2,000 people.

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You could never have imagined it would go like this.

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Well, you couldn't imagine it, but it's not me who's doing it.

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-Who's doing it, then?

-God. You know, He's doing it.

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They come every year - He's making them come.

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It's to the glory of God, all the time.

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Quick, cos Rudolph's coming, look.

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Tell me about your parrot outfit.

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-They said, "What's a parrot got to do with Christmas?"

-Well, exactly!

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-And I said, "I'm a Christmas parrot!"

-A Christmas parrot!

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This is an event organised by Christians, but everyone is welcome.

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So, why not just hire a big van and deliver them like that?

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-Wouldn't that be a lot easier?

-It'd be a lot warmer!

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But we're bikers and this is the tribe gathering together

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to celebrate Christmas and sharing gifts

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with our friends in the community.

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Some people taking part,

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some of them may not have families or children in their families

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that they buy gifts for so this is their big Christmas moment.

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For the girls, I've brought some scarves

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and some little bubbly things with a nice little presentation box

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-and all of that sort of stuff.

-Oh, nice!

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-What presents have you brought?

-Yeah, I've got a little police car.

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Oh, fantastic!

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Well, you might want to avoid those today!

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You know, it's not unusual to see a guitar on the back of a motorbike.

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Oh, fantastic!

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Right, I've got my present and I've got my Santa so let's go!

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Just because you wear a leather jacket don't mean

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that you're an outcast or you're unruly.

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I did come from a children's home myself when I was younger

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and since I've been on the bike,

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I've given something back to where I've come from.

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In many ways, we might be the most unexpected bunch of hoodlums

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to be doing what we do, but there's very much the spirit of Jesus

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is at the heart of this particular event.

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And the people that line the route watching, it's wonderful.

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Yes, it's just a big community thing that we do.

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The atmosphere, the noise, the bikes, it's just really amazing.

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-And what does today mean to you?

-Erm, it means a lot.

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If you ask any of this lot, it's all for the kids.

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Any time of the year somebody talks about this, I get emotional.

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-It obviously means so much to you.

-Yeah.

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Bikers arrive at a Barnardos school six miles down the road.

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From here, the presents will be distributed around the country.

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Wow! Look at all these toys, it's amazing!

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There's piles and piles of gifts.

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There you go! Thank you so much, that was so much fun.

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The school pupils help collect the presents.

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That all of these people have come from nowhere,

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not actually knowing us and bringing all the presents.

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It's absolutely amazing! Best people in the world!

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It seems to me you're using your passion for bikes

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-for Jesus, aren't you?

-Yep.

-And to serve your community.

-Yep.

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There's nothing better than helping people.

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# Glory to the newborn king... #

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Back in Dunster, the carollers are singing with gusto.

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Later on, we're going to be discovering

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a little bit more about the tradition of local carol singing.

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First, with a Christmas classic, here's Russell Watson.

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# Said the night wind to the little lamb

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# Do you see what I see?

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# Do you see what I see?

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# Way up in the sky, little lamb

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# Do you see what I see?

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# Do you see what I see?

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# A star, a star

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# Dancing in the night

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# With a tail as big as a kite

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# With a tail as big as a kite

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# Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy

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# Do you hear what I hear?

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# Do you hear what I hear?

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# Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy

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# Do you hear what I hear?

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# Do you hear what I hear?

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# A song, a song

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# High above the trees

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# With a voice as big as the sea

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# With a voice as big as the sea!

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# Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king

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# Do you know what I know?

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# Do you know what I know?

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# In your palace warm, mighty king

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# Do you know what I know?

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# Do you know what I know?

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# A child, a child

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# Sleeping in the night

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# He will bring us goodness and light

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# He will bring us...

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# goodness and light. #

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# Oh, tidings of comfort and joy... #

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'Carols are a big part of a traditional Christmas,

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'dating back hundreds of years.

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'We're all familiar with carollers singing in the streets,

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'but the tradition is more likely to have begun in graveyards,

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'as I discovered earlier.'

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So, what was a carol?

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It's a medieval song with dancing,

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-and the dancing is just as important a part as the singing.

-Right!

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-So anything like that, that's a carol?

-Pretty much.

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Usually with a bit that comes round and round, a refrain.

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What is this, and what does this have to do with carolling?

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This is so exciting. This is a preaching stone,

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and it's one of the few remaining preaching stones in the country,

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and it's where people would come and do a sermon.

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So they'd go to church in the church, and then, after the service

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had finished, everyone would come out into the graveyard, and this

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is where they would have a sermon, where they would preach to people.

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But the churchyard is also the place where, after the service...

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It's a nice, big, open space, wall round it, no livestock, so people

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would have a song and a dance in the churchyard after church.

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So then you've got the preacher on the preaching stone trying to

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preach to everyone and the carollers all dancing round.

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And we had these sermons where they talk about,

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"You've got to stop the carolling!" because it's getting in the way.

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OK, so where did the carollers go when they were thrown out of

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-the churchyard?

-So, then we don't know exactly,

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but they'd probably end up going down into the village,

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onto the main streets

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and continuing their carolling and their carousing down there.

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# ..comfort and joy. #

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Dunster has its own tradition of carol singing,

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and Emma and I headed up to the Tenants Hall,

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part of the castle, to catch up with the Dunster Carollers as

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they practised with their new recruits.

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# Let us by the fire, the fire... #

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This is The Dunster Carol.

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Would you describe this as being a medieval-style carol?

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In some ways, it really is. They've got the refrain going on,

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where they come round and round to the same bit each time.

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# Sing until the night expires

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# Sing until the night expires. #

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They're setting it in a season, so it's clearly December.

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# In December ring... #

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And then, at the end, they bring in the God bit,

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so they do the baby in the manger with the shepherds.

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So in that sense, yeah, absolutely classic.

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# Shepherds at the grange Where the babe was born... #

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In the Middle Ages, most musical traditions were oral traditions,

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taught by ear and learned by ear,

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and there are these gentlemen of the village teaching the children

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in exactly the way that people have learned carols for hundreds

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-and hundreds of years.

-What's The Dunster Carol all about?

0:27:330:27:36

Well, I know it's very old and the children who went to our

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school many years ago also learnt it.

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Well, it, like, keeps a tradition going, and, like, it's really

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special to us, because it's about the village where we go to school.

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The words were written by the poet Longfellow in the middle of

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the 19th century and were set to music. We don't know by whom.

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Well, I learnt it orally from my dad.

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So, that's my dad singing there in full gusto.

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I'm down there, and behind is my brother.

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-I've got here his old carol book, over 50 years old...

-Wow!

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..which is the last they've got of these, actually. I love it.

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And in it, it's got all the carols that we sing.

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We hope that in future, it will carry on even after we're gone.

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# Sing until the night expires. #

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Throughout history, folk tunes have been added to sacred words

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to popularise songs, and our next Christmas carol does just that.

0:28:320:28:36

I'm sure you're going to recognise the tune of Greensleeves.

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Thank you to everyone here in Dunster,

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and let me tell you that next week,

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we join Aled at the Royal Albert Hall for

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a Christmas Day celebration, where he'll be singing along with

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Gareth Malone and his choir, Laura Mvula and many others.

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Let me wish you a happy, joyous and peaceful Christmas,

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and we end today's show with this festive favourite.

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David Grant visits the medieval town of Dunster to take part in their candlelit procession and to sing special Somerset carols, and Katie Melua performs O Holy Night.

Music:

The First Nowell from Romsey Abbey, Romsey Christ Be Our Light from All Saints Church, Cheltenham O Holy Night by Katie Melua The Calypso Carol from St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic Church, Wigan Do You Hear What I Hear? by Russell Watson What Child Is This? from the Hackney Empire, London I Saw Three Ships from The Monastery, Gorton.