Christmas highlights on BBC Radio 3

We present highlights from BBC Radio 3’s Christmas schedule


Breakfast: BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition
Finalists Announced


Thursday 12 December, 6.30–9am

Petroc Trelawny presents the six shortlisted carols from this year’s BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition. From 9am today, listeners will be able to vote for their favourite carol on the Radio 3 website.

Breakfast and Essential Classics

Monday 16 to Friday 27 December, 6.30am-12pm

Breakfast and Essential Classics will be celebrating Christmas folk music, drawing on works from Britain, Europe and across the world. Essential Classics will also take requests from renowned musicians, and John Rutter discusses his Christmas music.

Breakfast: BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition
Winner Announced

Friday 20 December, 6-9am

Petroc Trelawny announces the winner of the 2019 Radio 3 Breakfast Carol Competition. He is joined by the BBC Singers, conducted by Bob Chilcott, who will perform the winning carol live, as well as some traditional Christmas favourites.

In Tune Christmas Special

Friday 20 December, 5-7pm

Sean Rafferty and Katie Derham will present a live concert broadcast from St. George’s, Hanover Square, featuring soprano Ermonela Jaho, the Consone Quartet (BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artists), and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble.

The Verb: Christmas Nonsense

Friday 20 December, 10-10.45pm

In a programme that celebrates silly stories and ridiculous rhymes, Ian McMillan is joined by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schleffer, creators of the ‘Gruffalo’, and former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen.

Music Matters: Greenland

Saturday 21 December, 11.45pm-12.30am

During a visit to the world’s largest island, Katie Molleson explores the role of traditional and new music for its communities today, as well as the political and sonic influence of the Greenlandic language on music.

Private Passions: Matthew Bourne

Sunday 22 December, 12-1pm

Multi-award winning choreographer and director Matthew Bourne talks to Michael Berkeley about the music that has shaped his life, as well as his first outings to the theatre, his distinguished career and the difficulties he has faced along the way.

The Listening Service

Sunday 22 December, 5-5.30pm

Tom Service explores the origins and essential ingredients of music that is solely dedicated to Christmas. 

Sunday Feature: Rewriting Raymond Scott

Sunday 22 December, 6.45-7.30pm

After gaining exclusive access to the Scott archives and conversations with family members, music historians and producers, Ken Hollings examines the life, career and legacy of Raymond Scott, one of America’s most progressive composers in electronic music.

Drama on 3: Winter Solstice

Sunday 22 December, 7:30 – 9:30pm

In Radio 3’s festive drama, David Haig and Sam Troughton star in Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Winter Solstice, a dark comedy focusing on a family during the festive period. 

New Generation Artists

Monday 23 to Friday 27 December, 5-6.15pm

In this series, Kate Molleson looks back at some of the recordings made by musicians and ensembles who are at various stages of this year’s Radio 3 New Generation Artists Scheme.

The Essay: Open Endings

Monday 23-Friday 27 December, 10-10.15pm

In this series of fifteen-minute essays, some of today’s leading writers choose a novel and talk about a story they have written which imagines what happened to the characters after the original ending. Writers include Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, Philippa Gregory and Elif Shafrak.

Radio 3 in Concert: Playing in the Dark: Neil Gaiman and the BBC Symphony Orchestra

Monday 23 December 7.30-10pm

The renowned author Neil Gaiman joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra to read from his best-selling books, as the orchestra performs accompanying works by Dukas, Gershwin, Sibelius, Sullivan, Wagner, Herrmann and Britten.

Greenland: An Arctic Sound Walk

Tuesday 24 December, 4.30–5.45pm; Wednesday 25 December, 4-5.15pm; Thursday 26 December 4-5.15pm

In this trilogy of programmes, Horatio Clare takes you on a soinic journey along the west coast of Greenland. He explores the origins of the country, its recent history, culture industry and evolution.

Sean at Home with Lang Lang

Wednesday 25 December, 1-2pm

Sean Rafferty travels to Amsterdam to meet the pianist Lang Lang. Lang Lang talks about his childhood experiences and his passions, and he explains how he is preparing to perform Beethoven’s concertos and a recording of the piano sonatas.

We celebrate Lang Lang by presenting six of his best performances.

Essential Classics

Thursday 26 to Tuesday 31 December, 9am-12pm

As 2019 draws to a close, Essential Classics will pay tribute to some of the great musicians who passed away this year – including soprano Jessye Norman, conductor and composer Raymond Lennard, conductor and composer André Previn, jazz pianist and composer Jacques Loussier and organist Peter Hurford.

This Classical Life: Ten Pieces Special

Saturday 28 December, 12.30-1pm

In this special BBC Ten Pieces edition of This Classical Life, aspiring young musicians from schools across the UK join saxophonist and presenter Jess Gillam to discuss the pieces that mean the most to them.

Private Passions: Dame Darcey Bussell

Sunday 29 December, 12-1pm

The legendary ballet dancer Dame Darcey Bussell talks to Michael Berkeley about life after a ballet career. Her music choices include Bach’s B Minor Mass, Fauré Requiem and Dinah Washington’s ‘Mad about the Boy’.

Night Tracks New Year Special

Wednesday 1 January, 12-12.30am

Composer, producer and presenter Hannah Peel presents a New Year special of Night Tracks.

New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna

Wednesday 1 January, 11.15am

With an array of polkas, waltzes, gallops and the classics ‘By the Beautiful Blue Danube’ and ‘Radetzky March’, Andris Nelsons and the Vienna Philharmonic welcome you into 2020 with their celebrated New Year Concert at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna.

Sound of Gaming Special

Wednesday 1 January, 1-2pm

In the New Year edition of Sound of Gaming, Jessica Curry presents her picks of her favourite games and soundtracks from 2019 and looks ahead to 2020 to see what may be the biggest scores of the year.

New Year New Music

Saturday 4 to Saturday 11 January


BBC Radio 3 celebrates the coming of the New Year by asking eleven of its presenters about their favourite work composed in the last decade. Extended performances of the works can be heard in a special edition of Radio 3’s New Music Show, on Saturday 5 January at 10pm.