​Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol celebrates 60 years

22 October 2021

One of S4C's most iconic and long-running series is celebrating a special birthday this year.

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.

And as the series celebrates six decades of singing and worshipping together, there will be a special programme on S4C on Sunday, 24 October at 7.00pm looking back at the appeal of the programme.

"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 (Begin to Sing, Begin to Praise).

"And there are only a few programmes across Britain that can beat our record," said Nia Roberts who presents the series.

The very first programme came from Trinity Chapel in Sketty, Swansea and since then the programme has travelled to every corner of Wales.

"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.

"Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol inspired the English programme Songs of Praise. 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.

The series also provided a stage for a number of young stars including the famous singer from Anglesey Aled Jones, and it was from Beaumaris Parish Church that Aled's voice was heard on television for the first time.

"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," said Aled Jones.

Someone else who presented Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol for nearly 10 years between 1998 a 2006 is the veteran presenter Huw Llywelyn Davies.

"When I got the offer to present the programme, I was shocked, and I think other people were even more shocked!" said Huw Llywelyn Davies.

"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."

As part of the celebrations the series conducted an opinion poll back in the summer to discover what Wales's most popular hymn is in 2021. On Sunday, 31 October at 7.00pm on S4C there will be a special programme in the company of Huw Edwards from St David's Hall in Cardiff.

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.

"Remaining on air for 60 years is quite an achievement for any programme," said Nia Roberts.

"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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