Church of England announces first festive single – a version of In the Bleak Midwinter
St Martin-in-the-Fields and St Martin’s Voices produced Handel’s Messiah last year. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian
The Guardian-Harriet Sherwood
The bookies’ favourite is LadBaby, even though the sausage-roll-loving dad and his family are yet to reveal whether they are competing for this year’s coveted Christmas Number 1.
Superstars Adele, Elton John, Ed Sheeran, and Abba are also in the running, say the bookies.
But they now face competition from an unlikely quarter. The Church of England has announced its first Christmas single, a new version of the carol In the Bleak Midwinter, sung by the professional ensemble at the London church St Martin-in-the-Fields.
The single, which will be released on 1 December, has been composed by Rebecca Dale. All royalties from the digital streams and downloads of the track will be donated to charity.
“Although In the Bleak Midwinter is a poem which was written nearly 150 years ago, it has a timeless mystery and is wonderfully evocative of a journey from the wintery landscape to the stable and the heart of the nativity story,” Dale said.
The church said the single would “form the soundtrack to this year’s Church of England Christmas campaign”. It will also release an advert on social media with the theme of #AtTheHeartOfChristmas which will highlight “tales of hardship overcome, generosity, faith, Christmas memories and hopes for the future from around the country”.
St Martin’s Voices is a group of professional singers who perform at concerts, services and broadcasts from the Trafalgar Square church. St Martin-in-the-Fields has a long record of work with homeless people, rough sleepers and asylum seekers in central London.
Mark Hoyle, aka LadBaby, has reached the top of the Christmas charts for the past three years with sausage roll-themed songs. Hoyle, his wife, Roxanne, and sons Phoenix and Kobe have raised funds for charity with We Built This City on Sausage Rolls, I Love Sausage Rolls and Don’t Stop Me Eatin’.
Hoyle has said a fourth tilt at the festive number one spot is possible. “Never rule out a sausage roll at Christmas is what I would say,” Hoyle told Metro this month.
The C of E has released Christmas adverts before to remind people of the meaning of the festive season. In 2015 an advert featuring people saying the Lord’s Prayer was banned by three leading cinema chains who said it risked upsetting or offending people.
In The Bleak Midwinter is the C of E’s first foray into the pop charts, although the Rev Richard Coles, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live and vicar of St Mary’s in Finedon, Northamptonshire, reached No 1 in 1986 as half of the duo the Communards. Coles and his pop partner Jimmy Somerville spent four weeks at the top of the charts with Don’t Leave Me This Way, which became that year’s top-selling single.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, said he was delighted “to be sharing this new carol as the national Church of England’s first ever Christmas single”.
Festive “trimmings” were wonderful, he said, “but they are not the heart of Christmas. The only thing that makes Christmas perfect is Jesus, who sees, loves and welcomes all. The message of this carol is that the only thing we need to give him and each other is our hearts – our very own selves.”
This article was amended on 30 November 2021. An earlier version placed Finedon in Nottinghamshire, rather than Northamptonshire.
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