IT WAS first heard in the months before the Blitz, and will be recorded again in St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, this Sunday. BBC Radio 2’s popular hymn programme, Sunday Half Hour, will be broadcast in a special anniversary edition at 8.30 p.m. on 17 July, 70 years after it was first broadcast from St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, on 14 July 1940.
Sunday Half Hour was then described as a programme of community hymn-singing, intended to boost the morale of troops serving abroad during the Second World War, the BBC said this week.
The series, formerly hosted by Canon Roger Royle, is now presented by the Irish Passionist priest Fr Brian D’Arcy, who interweaves announcements of listeners’ anniversaries and family events with well-known hymns, a reading, and a prayer.
The director of music at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Andrew Earis, who conducts the 70th- anniversary event, said on Monday that the choir for the day would be composed of members from several choirs who had previously been on the programme.
“St Martin-in-the-Fields was where the first ever religious broadcast was made, back in the 1920s, and Sunday Half Hour is one of the longest-running programmes on the BBC; so this is a very appropriate venue. . . It will be a celebration, and it’s going to be great fun. The church will be packed, with 800 people. The choir will rehearse all afternoon, and then the congregation will be admitted at 6.15 p.m., and we will run as live at 7 p.m., though it won’t be broadcast then. The Vicar, the Revd Nicholas Holtam will give the blessing at the end.”
The Choir of St Martin-in-the Fields will be joined by singers from St Andrew’s, West Tarring; Portsmouth High School; the Holy Redeemer, Billericay; St Martin’s, Dorking; and Bracknell Choral Society, Reading Phoenix Choir, and Thames Philharmonic Choir. They will sing “Great is thy faithfulness”, “Love Divine”, “How great thou art” and “Dear Lord and Father of mankind”. Martin Ford will be the organist, and the show will be produced by Janet McLarty.