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TV review: The King’s Christmas Broadcast, The Organ Stops: Saving the king of instruments, and Detectorists

06 January 2023


The King seen on a television screen, making his Christmas broadcast

The King seen on a television screen, making his Christmas broadcast

CHRISTMAS DAY was splendidly enhanced by our new monarch, who more than worthily assumed the mantle of his late mother of blessed memory. The most secular commentators have noted how, in recent years, the Queen became more and more explicit about her Christian faith — and, in The King’s Christmas Broadcast (BBC1, BBC2, ITV), Charles III certainly extended that theme, making it his own.

Not sitting in a splendid drawing room, but standing in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the music by the choir rather than a military band, expressing fellow feeling with all who, like him, are recently bereaved, and paying heartfelt tribute to the NHS, school staff, public-service workers, and charity volunteers, and reaching out to all faiths — this seemed to me to lay down a clear and admirable marker.

We must learn from the Seventh-Day Adventists. Christmas TV’s most surprising gift was The Organ Stops: Saving the king of instruments (Christmas Eve), built around Martin Renshaw’s heroic work as he seeks to find new homes for pipe organs no longer wanted in their churches, mostly because these are about to be sold or demolished.

“Don’t look for interesting organs in cathedrals — look in churches you’d drive past,” he maintains. The selection featured in redundant Nonconformist chapels in the north-east proved his point. Digging into the history of the instruments created a moving lament for a world departed, in which such chapels were the heart of their villages, offering inspiration and aspiration for their hard-bitten and impoverished communities.

While our French cousins (the destination of most of the 70 organs that Mr Renshaw has saved so far) cannot understand why we let fine musical instruments go for the price of removal, UK churches no longer value pipe organs, encouraged by our hierarchy to scrap such fuddy-duddy elitist nostalgia in favour of amplified pop groups.

The Seventh-Day Adventists in East Clapton, however, know better. They appreciate that a good organ and its music generate evangelism and education, and so have physically helped to dismantle, move, clean, and re-erect a magnificent unwanted 1905 Nelson & Co. instrument, from Catchgate, Co. Durham: a great congregation-building project. May their sense and enthusiasm infect the Established Church.

Easter rather than Christmas would have been the more appropriate festival for Detectorists (BBC2, Boxing Day), a feature-length version of the well-loved series. This essentially gentle social comedy was spiced up by genuine strife between our heroes, Lance and Andy, creating a layered moral parable. Finding a gold object led to deceit, suspicion, and rupture — although eventual contrition, expiation, and reconciliation. Why Easter? The over-egged coda demonstrated that lust for gold had blinded them, as they disdained and discarded their truly spectacular find — no less that the Holy Grail itself. Never underestimate pottery.

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