Huw Edwards to reveal Wales’ favourite hymn in anniversary special for S4C show
Wales’ favourite hymn will be revealed during a programme to celebrate the 60th anniversary of one of longest-running series on television.
The special edition of Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Canmol (Begin to Sing, Begin to Praise) will be hosted by news anchor Huw Edwards at St David’s Hall in Cardiff and broadcast on S4C at 7pm on Sunday, October 31.
As part of the celebrations, an opinion poll was conducted over the summer to discover the most popular hymn.
The winner and the rest of the Top 10 will be revealed and performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes and a special choir of 60 singers from all over Wales.
The week before at 7pm on Sunday, October 24, there will another birthday edition looking back at the appeal of the programme.
Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol was broadcast for the first time in January 1961. Ever since then a colourful cast of conductors, contributors and presenters have filled the screen.
It also provided a launching pad for the fledgling career of former boy soprano Aled Jones who went on to gain worldwide fame when his voice was heard for the first time on television in a broadcast from Beaumaris Parish Church.
He recalled: “I was 11 or 12 years old and at home in Llandegfan when the call came and I have never seen my mother so excited. To them, it was the best thing that could ever happen!
“This was the first big television programme that I had done and I was aware that everybody in Wales would be watching. I was so nervous! I certainly don’t think I would be presenting Songs of Praise without my connection to Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol.”
Presenter Nia Roberts said: “This is an important milestone for a programme which has been on quite a journey.
“There isn’t another Welsh language television programme which has been on the screen as long as Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol. And there are only a few programmes across Britain that can beat our record.”
The very first programme came from Trinity Chapel in Sketty, Swansea and since then the programme has travelled to every corner of Wales.
‘Something completely new’
“It was something completely new at the time to take cameras into chapels,” said R Alun Evans, the series presenter, producer and director between 1962 and 1969.
“I was a minister in Llandysul in 1961 and that’s when I saw Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol for the first time and was amazed by the quality of the singing.
“I had some experience in broadcasting and I started presenting which was a very exciting feeling. It was a format which worked and the figures proved that.”
A host of contributors will look back with a smile discussing the fashion, the fun, the smell of scent and the passion of the congregational singing while remembering a series which is beloved by thousands of Welsh people.
Someone else who presented Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol for nearly 10 years between 1998 a 2006 is the veteran presenter Huw Llywelyn Davies.
He said: “When I got the offer to present the programme, I was shocked, and I think other people were even more shocked.
“But it was a huge honour. It was important to me that it was not only a presenter standing in a chapel that was to be seen during the programme and that the conversational element was important. It is the people’s programme, of course.”
“It is a series which has remained popular through the years. This surprises a lot of people – when you consider that a traditional programme about singing hymns has been so popular. I think one of the reasons for this is that it has appealed to non-Welsh speakers and the element of nostalgia is very important too.”
Nia Roberts added: “Remaining on air for 60 years is quite an achievement for any programme.
“The thing that strikes me is the pride of those involved in the series through the years and the love the audience has for it.”
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Huw will be in his comfort zone presenting this programme; anyone who watched his documentary series ‘The Story of Wales’ will know that he’s chapel.