A Celebration For Ascension Day

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20160505The Right Reverend James Jones preaches at a service for Ascension Day.
20170525The Rt Revd David Walker is the preacher at a service for Ascension Day, live from St Martin-in-the-Fields led by the vicar, the Revd Dr Sam Wells.

Music is provided by the Daily Service Singers, the St Martin's Voices Fellows and Southbank Symphonia as they perform Haydn's dramatic and majestic Paukenmesse. Hundreds of Radio 4 listeners will be joined in the church by on-air talent and broadcasters who will lead various parts of the service.

A service for Ascension Day from St Martin-in-the-Fields.

20180510Mozart's joyful 'Sparrow' Mass live from St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. The Bishop of Llandaff, the Right Revd June Osborne, finds inspiration for life today in this ancient Christian festival. The Eucharist is celebrated by the Vicar, the Reverend Dr Sam Wells, and the music - also including compositions by Finzi and Colin Mawby - is provided by the Daily Service Singers, St Martin's Voices, and the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Hundreds of Radio 4 listeners join the choir, accompanied by trumpets drums and string orchestra for the Ascensiontide hymns Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia sing to Jesus, and Eternal Monarch, King most high. They are joined in the church by broadcasters and radio contributors who will lead various parts of the service. Producer: Ben Collingwood.

Mozart's joyful 'Sparrow' Mass live from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.

20190530The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell is the preacher at a service for Ascension Day, live from St Martin-in-the-Fields in London. It’s led by the vicar, the Reverend Dr Sam Wells, and the music – including a premiere of Bob Chilcott’s Samba Mass – is provided by the BBC Radio 4 Daily Service Singers and St Martin’s Voices. Hundreds of Radio 4 listeners join the choir, for the Ascensiontide hymns Hail the day that sees him rise, The head that once was crowned with thorns, Christ Triumphant Ever Reigning and Crown Him with Many Crowns. They are joined in the church by broadcasters and radio contributors who will lead various parts of the service. Producer: Alexa Good.

A service for Ascension Day live from St Martin-in-the-Fields.

20200521A celebration for Ascension Day led by the Revd Dr Sam Wells and the Revd Marie-Elsa Bragg

A celebration for Ascension Day led by the Rev Dr Sam Wells and the Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg.

A service for Ascension Day led by Rev Dr Sam Wells and Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg.

Every year Radio 4 listeners fill the pews of St Martin-in-the-Fields for Radio 4's broadcast celebration of Ascension Day. But this year is different. As congregations gather remotely, this is a different kind of service constructed from contributions from people across the country recording from their own homes. It’s a celebration but also a time to reflect on the present and find hope for the future.

Novelist and priest, the Revd Marie-Elsa Bragg offers a series of reflective meditations. She explores the fundamental place of physical touch in human experience and considers the nature of relationships built at a distance. She reflects on how people approach death, grief and despair, and provides a poetic vision of the future which acknowledges the triumphant power of love.

The service, led by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, the Revd Dr Sam Wells, is a tapestry of words and music. It culminates in a new recording of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus featuring the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and voices of Radio 4 listeners recorded from their own homes in lock-down around the country. This virtual choir experience allows singers to upload their own recordings singing with the BBC Philharmonic, to create a national choir created especially for this broadcast.

At a time when musicians cannot assemble, the BBC Philharmonic, the Daily Service Singers, St Martin's Voices and the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields are also brought together, recording remotely, to create unique versions of hymns and anthems for Ascension Day. The director of music is Andrew Earis, the organist is Graham Eccles and the hymns have been arranged by Darius Battiwalla. Additionally, songwriters, David and Yvonne Lyon have recorded music especially for the service, bringing a sense of tranquillity and reflection.

Producer: Katharine Longworth