The best Christmas music programmes on BBC Radio this year

Tune in to hear the very best Christmas choral music across the BBC's radio stations in 2020


Thursday 10 December

Radio 3 Carol Competition: BBC Singers Live on Radio 3


The BBC Singers and pianist Richard Pearce join Petroc Trelawny live on BBC Radio 3’s Breakfast programme from Maida Vale Studios, where the six shortlisted composers for this year’s Radio 3 Carol Competition will be announced. The BBC Singers, led by Owain Park, perform the six shortlisted entries, as well as the winning carol from the 2016 competition, Jessie Reeves’s Alleluia! A New Work Is Come On Hand. Broadcast at 8am.

Monday 14 December

Radio 2 Brass Dectet with members of the BBC Concert Orchestra

Members of the BBC Concert Orchestra perform Christmas carols for brass for the Radio 2 Breakfast Show with Zoe Ball.

Tuesday 15 December

A Choral Christmas with Katie Melua, Jess Gillam and Bob Chilcott

Bob Chilcott conducts the BBC Singers and members of the BBC Concert Orchestra with a celebration of Christmas music. There will be a limited live audience as well as a livestream online, hosted on the Barbican’s website.


Stuart Nicholson Ding! Dong! Merrily on high
Christian Onyeji Amuworo ayi otu nwa
Bob Chilcott The Midnight of your birth
Ryuichi Sakamoto Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence
John Gardner Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Traditional O little town (arr Bob Chilcott)
Leslie Pearson In Dulci Jubilo
Trad. Ukrainian Little Swallow (Carol of the bells)
Joni Mitchell River
Traditional Twelve Days of Christmas (arr Bob Chilcott)
Roger Harvey Festive Cheer
Elizabeth Poston Balulalow
Bob Chilcott The Shepherds Sing
Darius Milhaud ‘Brazileiria’ from Scaramouche
Bob Chilcott ‘Sweet was the song’ from On Christmas Night
Mack Willberg Jingle Bells
Johnny Marks Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (arr Bob Chilcott)
Anders Edenroth The World for Christmas
Traditional/Blaine/Martin Deck the Hall/Have yourself a merry little Christmas (arr Bob Chilcott)
David Willcocks O come, all ye faithful

Wednesday 16 December

Radio 3 Carol Competition: BBC Singers Live on Radio 3

A special afternoon concert at 2pm with the BBC Singers, who perform the six shortlisted entries from this year’s BBC Radio 3 Carol Competition.

Friday 18 December

Radio 3 Carol Competition: BBC Singers Live on Radio 3

The BBC Singers join Petroc Trelawny at 8am on the BBC Radio 3 Breakfast programme as he announces the winner of this year’s Carol Competition.

Sunday 21 December

Winter Daydreams: a tribute to Alexander Vedernikov

Recorded in 2019, the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s concert with conductor Alexander Vedernikov – who sadly died recently – will be replayed on BBC Radio 3 this December. The all-Russian concert will be followed by Advent choral music by Praetorius and Schütz, performed by the BBC Singers.


Sviridov                               Suite from The Blizzard
Rachmaninov                    Paganini Variations with Andrei Korobeinikov (piano)
Tchaikovsky                       Symphony No. 1 ‘Winter Daydreams’

Monday 22 December

Contemporary Christmas Carols with readings

Sofi Jeannin conducts the BBC Singers in a concert of carols from the late 20th and 21st centuries, interspersed with poetry inspired by the Christmas story.


James Whitbourn                            Christmas Welcome
René Veen arr. JEM                        Es ist ein ros entsproungen
Roderick Williams                           O Rex Gentium (World Premiere)
Sally Beamish                                    In the stillness
Toby Young                                        Come and dance
John Tavener                                     Rocking
Richard Allain                                    Dormi Jesu
Francis Pott                                        Balulalow
Judith Bingham                                Tu creasti Domine
Dupre                                                   Variations sur un vieux Noel
Paul Edwards                                     No small wonder
Walford Davies                                O Little Town of Bethlehem
Errollyn Wallen                                Peace on Earth
Jamie Burton                                     Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Hafliði Hallgrímsson                      Christ was born on Christmas Day 3’20”
Michael Nicholas                             King Uzziah
Tobias Frank                                      Les anges dans nos campagnes
Stuart Nicholson                              I saw three ships

Thursday 24 December

Christmas Classics from around the world

A studio concert celebrating Christmas music and traditions from around the world, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and conductor Adrian Partington. Broadcast at 9pm.


Ar Gyfer Heddiw’r bore (faban bach)     Plygain carol
Respighi                                                              Adoration of the Magi
Warlock arr. Philip Lane                               Bethlehem Down                                       Mozart                                                                 Exsultate Jubilate, K.165
Barber                                                                  Choral Prelude on Silent Night from Die Natali
Anthony Collins (after Liszt)                       Christmas Tree Suite (1952)
Piazzolla Arr.Desyatnikov                            Four Seasons Winter in Buenos Aires
Adolphe Adam                                                 Cantique de Noel (in E-flat)

Christmas Classics with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

At 10pm, tenor Jamie MacDougall, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Michael Seal come together for a traditional Christmas celebration, performing orchestral classics and Christmas carols at City Halls Glasgow.

Friday 25 December

On Christmas Night with the BBC Singers

On Christmas Day, Alan Bennett introduces the BBC Singers performing Hymn, a piece originally written by Bennett with a score by George Fenton for string quartet. The BBC Singers perform a choral version, arranged by Jonathan Manners.

A Christmas Carol with the BBC Concert Orchestra

Stephen Fry narrates an abridged version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, set to music by Richard Allain. This programme is to mark the 150th anniversary year of Charles Dickens’s death.

Great Northern Christmas with Owain Wyn Evans

Owain Wyn Evans, ‘the drumming weatherman’, went viral online earlier this year after drumming the BBC News theme during lockdwon. Broadcast across ten locdal BBC Radio stations in the north of England, this concert features performances of festive classics by the BBC Philharmonic.

Members of the public are invited to sing along with Owain Wyn Evans, the BBC Philharmonic and Hacker & Dodge from CBBC and Cbeebies in special performances of Winter Wonderland and Frosty the Snowman. 

The public is invited to submit their recordings before midnight on 6 December.

Listen on Radio Humberside, Radio Cumbria, Radio Merseyside, Radio Tees, Radio Leeds, Radio Manchester, Radio York, Radio Lancashire, Radio Newcastle and Radio Sheffield.

Carols for Christmas with BBC National Orchestra of Wales

At 12am on BBC Radio Wales and BBC Sounds, tune into a programme looking back through the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s Carols for Christmas archive. Repeated at 6am.

The Nutcracker for Brass

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales performs Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in an arrangement for brass, featuring Welsh narration by Kizzy Crawford. Other classic ballet pieces are also featured on the programme. Broadcast at 7pm on BBC Radio Cymru and BBC Sounds.

Christmas at the Movies with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra


At 2pm, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Clark Rundell perform some of the world’s best film music, including scores from Star WarsGone with the Wind and Lord of the Rings. Tenor Jamie MacDougall presents and performs alongside the orchestra in pieces from West Side StoryCasablanca and Citizen Kane, as well as Disney and Pixar films.