Choir of a thousand Methodist voices sings praises at Royal Albert Hall

A choir of over a thousand Methodist voices raised the roof atthe Royal Albert Hall last night during filming of a specialedition of the BBC's Songs of Praise. 

In all, more than 1,400 Methodists, mainly from across the southeast of England, joined forces to form a one-off choir. They hadbeen invited by the BBC to take part in the special programme tocelebrate the life and works of John Wesley on the 300thanniversary of his birth. This gathering of what must be one of thelargest Methodist choirs ever was a highlight of a noisy evening ofcelebration and song in a full Royal Albert Hall in centralLondon. 

Songs of Praise presenters Aled Jones and Pam Rhodes kept theevening ticking over, introducing the performers and songs, many ofwhich were compositions by Charles Wesley. These were chosen by theSongs of Praise producers to celebrate the Wesley legacy and theinfluence of Methodism today. 

Members of the Methodist choir had taken part in a rehearsalafternoon at Westminster Central Hall the previous Sunday. Theyalso spent the afternoon before last night's filming, runningthrough the songs being recorded. Among the hymns they sangincluded, appropriately, Charles Wesley's "O for a thousand tonguesto sing." Also featured were "Love divine, all loves excelling,"and "See how great a flame aspires". 

At one point in the proceedings, Ms Rhodes interviewed threemembers of the Methodist choir who had travelled all the way fromOhio, USA, to be part of the evening. They said that the trip wasfor them "the ideal way of marking John Wesley'sanniversary". 

The President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev Ian White,led the crowd in prayers at the end of the evening. He first prayedfor peace in troubled times, invoking the words of Francis ofAssisi to "make me a channel of your peace" and asking thatpoliticians and leaders be given clarity to bring the world tojustice and peace. He went on to offer prayers of thanks for thelife and work of John Wesley as well as for the gifts of music andpoetry used to celebrate the presence of God. 

Conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Saint Michael'sSingers and Royal Choral Society, was Methodist Paul LeddingtonWright, a former director of the MAYC Orchestra & Singers.Other performers that kept the crowd entertained and upliftedincluded BBC choirgirl of the year Lucy Rhodes andtalented a cappella group Covenant. 

Filming took place for two editions of the BBC TV's popularSongs of Praise. The first, a general celebration of music andpraise entitled "The Big Sing", is due to be broadcast in April.The special edition celebrating John Wesley will be seen in June tocoincide with anniversary of Wesley's birth.

BBC Songs of Praise
John Wesley's 300thanniversary