The Vicar of Croydon, Canon Andrew Bishop, has spoken of his excitement – and terror – when the BBC came calling to ask to broadcast its 2019 Christmas Eve midnight mass from Croydon Minster.
Nearly six months of careful preparation even included having special plans in place should people wander into the service after a night spent down the pub.
The end result, Bishop writes, was, “A Christmas that will live long in the memory.”
Writing for the Diocese of Southwark’s website, Canon Bishop explains, “It all started with a call, out of the blue, in July last year, from a BBC producer asking if we might be on for having our Midnight Mass broadcast live on BBC1. My first thought was, ‘How exciting’, which pretty quickly moved to ‘How terrifying’.
“Having chatted it through with our Director of Music, Dr Ronny Krippner, churchwardens and other colleagues, it didn’t take long for us to say yes.”
Having the BBC coming to the Minster for what is, for them, their most-watched religious programme of the year, “took us to new heights of preparation”, the vicar writes.
“There was a tremendous amount of administration. Safeguarding was, of course, extremely important, and because the service was being broadcast the children involved – choristers and servers – needed to have child performer licences from the local authority. Chaperones had to have licences, too, in addition to DBS Clearance.
“The other major task was to compile a set of notes for all the liturgical moves. This meant that clergy and servers knew where they were supposed to be, and, as importantly, the director knew where they would be so that cameras could focus on the right moments.
“We were also acutely aware that a religious event, broadcast on the BBC, with a large attendance could attract those who stumbled in from the pub, possibly protestors, or more sinister attention. To that end the local police advised on security and mitigation of risks…
“In the days before the broadcast we became very familiar with camera jibs, lighting rigs and a proliferation of cables. Little bits of masking tape were put on the floor by the production team to mark where people would stand, and then were assiduously, but unhelpfully, tidied up by some of the home team, who wanted the place looking tidy!
“The choir were working on the music chosen in consultation with the BBC music adviser. It included traditional carols, the Mozart ‘Credo Mass’ along with some sublime Plainsong, including the Midnight Mass introit ‘Dominus Dixit’.
“One of the crowning musical glories was Ronny’s own arrangement of ‘Silent Night’ which wove the angelic proclamation ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo. Alleluia’ into the last verse. The choir was the full Choral Foundation, comprising our boys’ and girls’ choirs and all our adult singers.”
“One of the attractions of Croydon to the BBC was the ethnic diversity of our congregation. We wanted to ensure the involvement of as many and wide-ranging number people as possible, as we always seek to do, in readers, intercessor and offertory procession. But that didn’t need forcing because it’s what we do.
“A team of servers was assembled from our pool of servers, and rehearsals took place. The aim was not to achieve military precision or be stiff in presentation, but rather to ensure that there were no visual distractions from what would unfold in the liturgy, both in the building and for those viewing at home…”.
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