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It's Christmas Eve and we're here at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
5,000 voices are going to raise the roof with a feast of festive music.
Welcome to the Songs Of Praise Christmas Big Sing.
In today's special programme,
I'll be taking a Christmas carriage ride around London.
JB Gill will be discovering the beautiful story behind
the 70-year-old tradition of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square.
And we'll both be joining 5,000 Songs Of Praise viewers
to sing festive favourites for you at the Royal Albert Hall.
Tomorrow morning, church bells up and down the country
will be ringing to celebrate that the big day is here
and to rejoice in the birth of baby Jesus.
Our first carol celebrates a love of bell-ringing,
and it certainly does that.
It's Ding Dong! Merrily On High.
Well, this really is the way to see London in all its festive splendour.
Now, whilst I take in the view, JB Gill is in Trafalgar Square,
looking at the Christmas celebrations there.
Trafalgar Square is right in the heart of London.
In fact, this very spot marks the centre of the city
and all distances to the capital are measured from here.
St Martin-In-The-Fields church is in the north-east corner of the square.
And always has lots of special services and events at Christmas.
Reverend Doctor Sam Wells is vicar of St Martins.
Sam, Trafalgar Square's such an iconic tourist attraction.
-What's it like being a church here?
I go around the world, I give talks in America and Hong Kong and Sweden
and places and always ask people to put their hands up
if they've been Trafalgar Square,
and always 90% of the room have been here
so I always come back and tell my team, you know,
"This is what we're dealing with."
Everybody I speak to around the world comes through Trafalgar Square
at some stage, maybe only once -
we've got to make the most of that chance.
And how does it change at Christmas time?
We have a carol service
or carol concert pretty much every night through December,
sometimes through the day as well, so we're kind of all full up.
It's like eating a lot of mince pies.
And when it comes to Christmas,
obviously it's a lot more commercial these days,
but how do you ensure people get a real sense
of the real meaning of Christmas?
I always disagree with people who say it's too materialistic
because actually Christmas is about materialism -
it's about God being a human being.
So Christmas is about the way God is with us
and about the way we are with one another.
Every Christmas, St Martins puts on a special crib service.
Wake up, wake up, turn on the lights.
The saviour is born tonight, tonight!
The crib service is very special because 10 or 15 years ago
an artist made sculptures of real people,
including members of our congregation here -
we take them out to the square
and then we have a wonderful blessing of the crib service.
Bless now this crib where outcast and sage, humanity and creation,
old and young, divine and human are united.
To be a place of encounter with you and your Grace.
Most churches have their crib services inside the church
but you have yours outside. Why?
Trafalgar Square is a focal place in London now,
it's a place where we have all sorts of protests and campaigns and things
and a few times a year we from the church go out into the square
and perform the story that's at the heart of our faith.
And there shouldn't be anything pious about church.
You know, the Christmas story and the Easter story -
they're right in the thick of the city,
they're right in the thick of the realities of human life.
So it's particularly special when we go out from the beautiful building
and go in to the realities of the square and the noise
and the dirt and the realities of life.
A prince born for us in a stable. Wow, that's so cool!
We went to the stable where baby Jesus lay
In a manger built of hay
He didn't have any Christmas presents -
I thought that was quite shocking
So I gave him my lamb to put in his stocking.
It's time now for a special performance from Katherine
and our Big Sing orchestra.
On Christmas Eve back in 1816, a Yorkshire-based poet wrote
the next carol after suddenly being inspired
whilst reading Luke chapter 2.
It's Angels From The Realms Of Glory.
# Angels from the realms of glory
# Wing your flight o'er all the earth
# Ye who sang creation's story
# Now proclaim Messiah's birth
# In excelsis Deo
# In excelsis Deo
# Shepherds in the fields abiding
# Watching o'er your flocks by night
# God with man is now residing
# Yonder shines the infant light
# In excelsis Deo
# In excelsis Deo
# Though an infant now we view him
# He shall fill his Father's throne
# Gather all nations to him
# Every knee shall then bow down
# In excelsis Deo
# In excelsis Deo. #
We're currently crossing Hyde Park
and it's looking absolutely beautiful.
But it's time to head back to the Royal Albert Hall,
where 5,000 voices will be raising the roof
with their beautiful singing.
It's Charles Wesley's most popular carol and it tells the story
of how the angels announced the birth of baby Jesus.
There are so many traditions around Christmas -
carols, turkeys, presents and, of course, Christmas trees -
and there are some pretty festive
and spectacular trees here in London.
But it's the one in Trafalgar Square that has
a very special story behind it and JB Gill has been finding out more.
A couple of weeks ago in the early hours of the morning,
a huge spruce tree arrived in Trafalgar Square,
all the way from Norway,
to be the focal point of Christmas celebrations.
Lord Mayor, tell me about the tree here in Trafalgar Square.
Why is it here?
Well, it's a really significant national symbol.
It's a gift from the city of Oslo to Great Britain
and it really kind of reflects the close relationship
between Norway and Great Britain.
This tradition began because Britain gave sanctuary to Norway's leaders
during the Second World War.
The Norwegian government and the King of Norway brought
themselves to safe haven here in the heart of London and Westminster.
The tree is a symbol of peace and friendship and for us
this is very important in Norway to have a Christmas tree that
gives light in a time of the year where there is a lot of darkness,
so it gives us hope for the future and also a symbol of friendship.
2017 marks the 70th anniversary of the first Norwegian Christmas tree
arriving and being lit here in Trafalgar Square.
This is a real Oslo tree and is also special
because it is 70 years old,
so when this tree was a little baby tree 70 years ago,
now it has grown to be a beautiful 21-metre-high tree.
It's quite special, so the tree has an anniversary
and also the tradition is also 70 years.
In the kind of world we are living in,
with so much unpredictability with...
Some will say we live in the middle of a chaotic world,
I think exactly this kind of tradition
which symbolises all the good things in life - friendship, peace,
co-operation across borders - is so incredibly important.
MUSIC: O Come, All Ye Faithful
And just like back in 1947,
thousands have turned out tonight to see the lights being switched on.
So I have bought my wife, Chloe,
and son, Ace, along to share the moment with me.
It is important to look back but also take history into the future.
So I'm very happy that this year we have two children,
one from London and one from Oslo, that can light the tree
because that symbolises the importance
of also looking into the future.
And to keep the friendship and the dialogue
and contact between our two nations and our two cities.
So this year is very special because it shows us
that this tradition is going to last.
And we have to have new generations to follow that tradition
in the years to come.
So I invite the two representatives of the future
to step forward and to do the job. So please press the button.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
What a special treat.
Well, our next carol was sung on this very night
over 100 years ago in the trenches of World War I.
It's considered the carol of peace
and has been translated into over 300 languages.
Here's JB Gill performing Silent Night.
# Silent night
# Holy night
# All is calm
# All is bright
# Round yon virgin
# Mother and child
# Holy infant
# So tender and mild
# Sleep in heavenly peace
# Sleep in heavenly peace... #
My journey is nearly over
and it's been such a lovely way to see London at Christmas time.
Next week, Claire McCollum is celebrating
New Year's Eve on a special journey along the Thames.
And we'll be back at the Royal Albert Hall
for more wonderful singing from our 5,000-strong congregation.
With special performances from Mary Jess,
the boys choir Libera,
and Westlife's Shane Filan
Well, we've got time for just one more
from here at the Royal Albert Hall in London
and it's a carol that you may think could have started as a memory game
but if you added up every single thing on this list
in today's money, it would total a very expensive shopping trip.
Probably about £25,000.
What carol is it? Of course, it's the 12 Days Of Christmas.
Wishing you and your family a peaceful
and blessed Christmas from everyone here at Songs Of Praise.
THEY PLAY FESTIVE VERSION OF SONGS OF PRAISE THEME
Katherine Jenkins and JB Gill celebrate Christmas with 5,000 Songs of Praise viewers by singing carols in the Royal Albert Hall, including Ding Dong Merrily on High and The Twelve Days of Christmas. Katherine and JB also give their own special performances and reveal the story behind Trafalgar Square's Christmas tree.