Methodist Central Hall Westminster Songs of Praise


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Methodist Central Hall Westminster

Hymns from the historic Methodist Central Hall Westminster with guest Julian Lloyd Webber, who reminisces about his father's time as an organist.


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Hello. This week, I'm in London at a very important church.

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No, not Westminster Abbey.

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I'm over the road at the impressive Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.

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It has a fascinating history and is a well-known venue

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for big events, but at its heart is a flourishing Methodist church.

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Welcome to Songs Of Praise.

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On today's programme, I learn about the history

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and importance of this incredible building, including the fact

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it played host to the first-ever meeting of the United Nations.

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Julian Lloyd Webber shares memories of his father, who was the

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music director here and responsible for playing the wonderful organ.

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Connie Fisher finds out how, 400 years on,

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the Patron Saint of Charity's vision to serve the poor

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here in one of London's richest boroughs is still going strong.

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I live my faith by helping other people to recognise what

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they can do, to give them love and never, ever to judge them

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or dismiss anybody.

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And we join the Christian performers from the West End who sing together

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to keep their faith strong.

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Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, was opened in 1912

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and this staircase was modelled on the Paris Opera House.

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It's often used as a film set, but primarily it's

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the biggest Methodist Church building in the country,

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where Christians from many nations gather to sing their praise.

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Perhaps one of the most prolific hymn writers of all time

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was Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism.

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He wrote over 6,000 hymns and we start with one of his greats -

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Ye Servants Of God.

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Methodism began in the 18th century

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when the brothers John and Charles Wesley formed the Holy Club,

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which gained the nickname the "Methodists" because of their

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methodical approach to both devotion and living disciplined lives.

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Well, the movement spread and now has 80 million members worldwide.

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Tony Miles is one of the ministers here.

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-Tony, good to meet you.

-Welcome, Sean.

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It feels like we're being watched here. Who's this?

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This is John Wesley carrying his Bible.

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He travelled a quarter of a million miles around the country

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-preaching 40,000 sermons.

-Wow!

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He's got a massive reputation, but he's a little man, isn't he?

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He is very short.

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In fact, when the Queen came to unveil this statue,

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she unveiled it and she said,

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"It's nice to see someone who's shorter than me."

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He's actually two inches shorter.

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VOICEOVER: But his diminutive stature didn't stand in the way

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of this whole building being built as a memorial to him.

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-Wow! Tony, what a magnificent place!

-Impressive, isn't it?

-It's vast.

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Our little chapel here at the heart of Westminster.

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I can't imagine what your last chapel was like. This is huge!

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Yes, it was one of 40 Methodist Central Halls that were built

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at the end of the 19th century,

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and it was the Wesleyan Methodists' attempt to reconnect

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with urban areas and particularly our mission alongside the poor,

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to provide a "pew on the pavement", as they called it,

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where people could pop in and feel comfortable in a space

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like this that has very little religious symbolism.

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You can see a cross, but that's about all.

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The Reverend Martyn Atkins is head of the church here.

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-Martyn.

-Sean.

-Good to meet you.

-Good to meet you.

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-Welcome, welcome.

-Well, it's an amazing place.

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-You've hosted some amazing events, haven't you?

-We have.

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Come and look at this.

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This is the journal of

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the very first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.

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So, the UN met here?

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The end of the Second World War, January/February 1946 -

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51 nations came to this building

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and the first thing they did was paint it all beige.

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-Beige, so they're not siding with any nation.

-Absolutely.

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It's not on any flag, it's neutral and so they come here

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and they were here for weeks.

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-It's also had some pretty special speakers, hasn't it?

-Loads of them.

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The Dalai Lama has been here,

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Martin Luther King Jr,

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Mahatma Gandhi stood exactly where you are now

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and loads of politicians - Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher.

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Looking at that list of speakers, it does show that this place is

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-a church at the heart, but it's also a secular space, as well.

-It is.

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The Methodist Church wanted to make this a space of invitation.

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How does that fit with the Methodist credentials?

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Well, God loves everyone and God wants the improvement

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of human beings, their life, body, mind and spirit

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and if it contributes to that, here's your space.

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-Now, I've got one more place that I want to show you.

-I'm excited.

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-Are you ready for this?

-I'm a bit worried now!

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-See you, Martyn.

-Take care.

-God bless.

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We've climbed up to a balcony you'd never know was here.

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Tony, that is a tremendous view.

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Well, I have to say, I'm totally biased,

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but this has got to be one of the best views over Westminster.

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This is high enough for me, but it goes up even more, doesn't it?

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It does. Up on the top there is a golden depiction of the world

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with the Holy Spirit falling upon it and when I'm here,

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I also think of the Holy Spirit falling on the Disciples,

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I think of the Wesley brothers, and it reminds me

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of our next hymn that we're going to sing,

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O Thou Who Camest From Above, for whenever I sing that hymn,

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I pray that we may be changed by the Holy Spirit,

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by the power of the Spirit so that we can love and serve together.

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Methodist Central Hall, Westminster may sit next door

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to the Houses of Parliament and have, within its shadow,

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some of the most expensive property in the world,

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but there's also poverty here.

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In the basement of the church is a Catholic charity called

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the St Vincent's Family Project

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that reaches out to parents with young children.

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Connie Fisher has been finding out about the work they do.

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Everyone here has a different story to tell.

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They come from a huge variety of countries and cultures,

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but whatever their background, when they walk in here,

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they're guaranteed a very warm welcome.

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-ALL:

-# Hello, Connie

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# Hello, Connie... #

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-VOICEOVER:

-As well as being a playgroup, the charity offers

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help and support to parents

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and Seka leads the team of helpers and volunteers here.

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I remember, when I got children,

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you can just panic, be anxious and really lose sleep

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and lose your health over it. So when you have a place like this,

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you say, "OK, I'll just pop to St Vincent's."

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And when you open the door of a place and everybody knows your name

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and everybody welcomes you, you say, "OK, I belong in there."

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Other playgroups that we normally go to, you go there,

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you play and then you go, you leave and that's it.

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But here, we can build up a relationship with them.

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They're like a friend to us, like family, basically.

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We can see that poverty is rising.

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You have pockets of deprivation on three big estates in here.

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Actually, one of the estates that is just down the road in Pimlico,

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Churchill Gardens Estate,

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is one of the most deprived estates in the country, in the UK.

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The charity may be dealing with 21st-century problems,

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but its origins lie 400 years ago with St Vincent.

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Well, St Vincent was a 17th century priest

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who was responding to the needs within his area.

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He basically was an organiser.

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He's actually the Patron Saint of Charity

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and so St Vincent is now the inspiration for our work

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of charity and responding to people's needs.

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As well as the family drop-in, they run several classes,

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including the popular parenting advice sessions.

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And for praise to work, it needs to be short, descriptive.

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So, she tidied all the toys up. How are you going to praise her?

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Thank you very much for tidying the toy and putting in the box.

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Well done, keep it up.

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Well done, that's a really good example.

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This is a Christian charity.

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We don't hide the fact that we're a Christian charity

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and it isn't up to us to decide what someone's faith journey is.

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We leave that up to God, really, in the end.

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And if some way, at the end of this road,

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that people think that they have seen the Lord work in here,

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well, then we'll leave that up to them.

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I live my faith by helping other people, to see good in them,

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to recognise what they can do,

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to give them love and to give them acceptance and never, ever

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to judge them or dismiss anybody.

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I'm a single mum.

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I've got three children, born in Sierra Leone.

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Back home in my country, there used to be a war there,

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they have a war.

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So, God saved me.

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I didn't die through the war

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and I find myself here so God did a lot for me.

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It was just very nice, you know, to come

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and meet other mums, share things, ideas.

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-VOICEOVER:

-We're a Catholic charity,

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but we're also housed within a Methodist church

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and, actually, the Methodist minister said to me

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that God is already here, God is already working

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and we just have to show up so we're just waiting

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for the people to show up and then we serve.

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The centrepiece here at Methodist Central Hall

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is the glorious organ with 4,000 pipes.

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This piece is by the composer Dr William Lloyd Webber.

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He was the music director here for 24 years

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and is the late father of famous sons Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber.

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Well, listening to that, Julian,

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must bring back memories of your childhood.

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It really does because I was about nine when my father got the job here

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as the music director and also the organist

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so every Sunday morning, I used to come with my mother

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and we used to go to the services,

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occasionally evening services, too, and they were extraordinary times.

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What do you remember as a child about the sermons here, then?

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They were actually not too long.

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I remember that, they were very sort of audience-friendly

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and I learned a lot from them, even at that age.

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Now, your father wrote lots of music, but he didn't really

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get the recognition he deserved till after his death. Why was that?

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It was his own fault, basically, because he hid all his music away.

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His music is very, very romantic, but he basically hid it away

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because he thought it was too romantic to get any

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kind of approval from the critics at the time. I mean, he was right.

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It was music that was completely out of step with the time

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it was written and it was only after he died

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that I was able to find out just how much he'd written.

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So, he did that to avoid the critics.

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He didn't want people to criticise him.

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I think he went on writing a lot of church music

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because he had to write music. He was a very instinctive musician

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and church music didn't get reviewed.

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He obviously had a big influence on you and your brother Andrew

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cos you both went into music

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and you've had both really successful careers.

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Yes, he was a slightly remote figure, though, in a way.

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He went on and he did all the things he did.

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He was director of the London College of Music,

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taught at the Royal College, was director here.

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We knew he was a really brilliant musician,

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but he didn't push or interfere.

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We could choose whatever we liked

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and there was all kinds of music that we heard all the time -

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musicals, rock and roll, Beethoven, Prokofiev, the lot -

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and I think that's probably why Andrew and me

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went in different ways.

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We weren't particularly pressurised to go in any way or do music at all.

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Now, our next hymn is Love Divine

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-and that's a hymn your dad really liked.

-Yes, he really did.

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I remember hearing it here.

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He even did a version himself,

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but this is the Blaenwern tune that we hear today.

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A variety of music has always been heard here at Methodist Central Hall

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and, today, the service includes Jazz Vespers,

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a group run by saxophonist Dan Forshaw.

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Within walking distance of Methodist Central Hall

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lies London's famous West End,

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where Connie Fisher has been meeting

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some Christian musical theatre stars.

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Ah, this takes me back!

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I remember my Maria days in The Sound Of Music

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here at the London Palladium, but behind the glitz and glamour,

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the world of show business can be very insecure

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with emotional highs and lows,

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and holding on to your faith can be really tough.

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Anna McGarahan is currently in Les Miserables.

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She's one of the many actors on the West End stage who,

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night after night, deliver great performances.

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I grew up in a Christian household.

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My dad's a vicar, but it was when I moved to London

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when I was about 15 and got into a church

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where there was lots of young people,

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that's when my faith kind of flourished, I guess.

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Anna's friend Hannah is in Phantom Of The Opera.

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They're both Christians, but may never have met

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if it hadn't been for a group called West End Has Faith.

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And what's the purpose of the group? Why do you get together?

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In a sense, it feels quite lonely when you're a Christian

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in this business and, for me, especially, I thought

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I was the only one for quite a while

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and the purpose of this is to bring us together

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so that we can support, that we can build up,

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that we can learn together, we can pray together

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or if something is happening at work,

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you can actually understand where you're coming from

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from your Christian perspectives, as well.

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Yeah, because I think lots of us have Christian friends,

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but they don't necessarily know the rollercoaster of emotions

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that you go on as an actress or any kind of creative

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because like you said, it's that uncertainty

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and if you've gone for six or seven auditions

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and you're in the final round

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and then it's a no, it's how to deal with that rejection and...

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After a month of trying!

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Yeah, yeah!

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Or you go from being a lead in one show and then you finish

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and you have three months out of work

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and you can't even get an audition.

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# Holy Word... #

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Today, the group are rehearsing for a charity concert they're holding.

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# ..Mighty Jesus... #

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OK, guys, keep singing, keep singing!

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I'm going to join in.

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# ..Lord of everything... #

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How ruthless is this business?

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Some people think it's glitz and glamour,

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but you've needed your faith at times, right?

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You can't take it personally.

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There have been times where I haven't got jobs

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because my eyebrows aren't right or my eyebrows are too dark

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or I'm too fat, too thin, too tall, too short.

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Like I can't be in 42nd Street because my legs aren't long enough.

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-Really?

-So, I'm always too short!

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# ..Here I stand... #

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It says somewhere in the Psalms that we're God's masterpiece

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and I think that's really important to know that,

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regardless of all this rejection, ultimately,

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we are loved and cherished and we can't take that rejection personally

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and I think faith is really important in that

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because if you are grounded in who God says you are,

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not about what other people think of you,

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it makes the rejection easier to deal with.

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# ..To glorify your name! #

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It's great to see how faith can pull actors together

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and some of the members of the group are also part

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of the West End Gospel Choir and here they are to perform for us now.

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# Wait a minute

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# Bring it back

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# Wait a minute

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# I'm not worried about a thing

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# Cos I know you are guiding me

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# Where you lead me

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# Lord, I will go

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# I have no fear

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# Cos I know who's in control

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# There's no limit to what you can do

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# Cos it all belongs to you

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# Yes, it all belongs to you

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# You're almighty and all powerful

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# And it all belongs to you

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# Yes, it all belongs to you

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

0:28:590:29:01

# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Can't say no

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# When Jesus say yes

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# Nobody can say no

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# I'm not worried about a thing

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# Cos I know you are guiding me

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# Where you lead me

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# Lord, I will go

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# I have no fear

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# Cos I know who's in control

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# There's no limit to what you can do

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# Cos it all belongs to you

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# Yes, it all belongs to you

0:29:430:29:46

# You're almighty and all powerful

0:29:460:29:48

# And it all belongs to you

0:29:480:29:51

-# Yes, it all belongs to you

-Sing it again

0:29:510:29:54

# There's no limit to what you can do

0:29:540:29:57

# Cos it all belongs to you

0:29:570:29:59

# Yes, it all belongs to you

0:29:590:30:01

# You're almighty and all powerful

0:30:010:30:05

# And it all belongs to you

0:30:050:30:07

# Yes, it all belongs to you

0:30:070:30:09

# Wait a minute

0:30:100:30:12

# Bring it back

0:30:120:30:13

# Wait a minute

0:30:150:30:16

# Bring it back

0:30:160:30:18

# Wait a minute

0:30:190:30:20

# Bring it back

0:30:200:30:22

# Whoo

0:30:220:30:23

# Wait a minute

0:30:230:30:24

# When Jesus say yes

0:30:240:30:27

# Nobody can say no

0:30:270:30:29

# When Jesus say yes

0:30:290:30:30

# Nobody can say no

0:30:300:30:32

# When Jesus say yes

0:30:320:30:34

# Nobody can say no

0:30:340:30:37

# When Jesus say yes

0:30:370:30:38

# Nobody can say no. #

0:30:380:30:40

Well, that's just about it from Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.

0:30:440:30:47

Next week, we have a very special programme for you.

0:30:470:30:50

It's Homeless Sunday and I join volunteers from my church

0:30:510:30:55

on their regular early morning tea run in Central London

0:30:550:30:58

and the Reverend Kate Bottley meets a remarkable teenager

0:30:580:31:01

offering a little bag of hope to the homeless in Preston.

0:31:010:31:06

From the early days of the Methodist movement,

0:31:060:31:08

John and Charles Wesley knew the importance of singing

0:31:080:31:11

as a means of learning, celebrating and sharing faith

0:31:110:31:15

and our final hymn does all of that.

0:31:150:31:18

It's a favourite of the congregation here - Father Of Everlasting Grace.

0:31:180:31:22

Hymns and songs from the historic Methodist Central Hall Westminster with guest Julian Lloyd Webber, who reminisces about his father's time there as organist. The Rev Tony Miles and Rev Martyn Atkins reveal the hall's links to the United Nations.

Connie Fisher visits the St Vincent's Family Project supporting local young families and children, and she hears from performers from the West End's musical theatre about the challenges of being a Christian in the world of show business.

Music:

O Thou Who Camest from Above - Methodist Central Hall Westminster What a Friend We Have in Jesus - Methodist Central Hall Westminster Love Divine - Methodist Central Hall Westminster Say Yes - Methodist Central Hall Westminster Father of Everlasting Grace - Methodist Central Hall Westminster.