The Church of England is hoping its first ever Christmas single will reach more people with the story of the birth of Jesus.
The single, streaming on all platforms from today, is a new carol version of ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ and has been developed in partnership with Classic FM.
It will have its radio debut with Classic FM presenter Alexander Armstrong later this month.
“The light, colour and warmth of Christmas stand out starkly against the dark midwinter palette and make our enjoyment so much more focused, especially when it comes to Christmas music,” he said in his reflection on the song.
“There is no other season whose music we devour so hungrily, nor any that carries so many happy associations for us from down the years. That is why it is so thrilling when we hear the first strain of Christmas music each year.”
The carol forms the soundtrack to the Church of England’s #AtTheHeartOfChristmas encouraging more people to come and hear about the real Christmas story through their local church.
All royalties from the digital streams and downloads of the track will go to charities working with the homeless.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “Singing carols is a beloved Christmas tradition for so many – so we’re delighted to be sharing this new carol as the national Church of England’s first ever Christmas single.
“At Christmas, God becomes human. His heart beats. As a frail child in a cold manger, he takes his first breaths on this earth. We often dress this time of year up, adding all the trimmings.
“These things are wonderful, but they are not the heart of Christmas. The only thing that makes Christmas perfect is Jesus, who sees, loves and welcomes all. The message of this carol is that the only thing we need to give him and each other is our hearts – our very own selves.
“Wherever and whoever you are, you too are welcome and invited this Christmas, to worship the child, the God, whose heart beats for you.”
The carol was recorded by St Martin’s Voices in the historic church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, London.
It is the work of composer Rebecca Dale, a rising star in the classical music scene.
Her 2015 debut self-release for choir and orchestra, I’ll Sing, reached No 1 in the iTunes Classical Single Charts and was Classic FM’s Choral Classic of the Week.
She was also the first female composer to sign to Universal Music’s Decca Classics label, with her debut album, Requiem For My Mother, reaching No 1 in the specialist Classical charts.
She said: “It’s so exciting to have been invited to write this new carol for the Church of England’s Christmas theme #AtTheHeartOfChristmas.
“Although In the Bleak Midwinter is a poem which was written nearly 150 years ago, it has a timeless mystery and is wonderfully evocative of a journey from the wintery landscape to the stable and the heart of the nativity story.
“I have long wanted to set this text, and so when the Church of England asked me to be involved in this project, this was my very first thought. I hope people will enjoy the setting and that it helps connect them with the amazing story which is at the heart of Christmas.”