A Musical Nativity with John Rutter

Radio Times
Review by:
Mark Braxton

For many choristers, the name John Rutter is synonymous with Christmas. His music is so devotional and steeped in Christian doctrine that it’s a surprise to learn he’s an agnostic — or, as he describes himself here, a “bruised optimist in a very imperfect world”. His gift for arrangement and tune shines out in an uplifting programme of personal favourites and his own compositions, from Nativity Carol, written at 16, to his latest work (he’s now a sprightly 66).

Rutter’s excitement for the occasion is beautifully expressed not only in interview and in his playful, darting songs, but also in sparkly and moving versions of familiar works.

About this programme

The composer conducts a musical retelling of the Christmas story at Dorchester Abbey, featuring some of his most popular carols alongside other festive favourites close to his heart. He also talks to Katie Derham about the influences behind his compositions, including the Picasso painting that inspired his Shepherd's Pipe Carol. Gerald Finley and Elin Manahan Thomas are the soloists, with the Cambridge Singers, the Children's International Voices of Enfield and the Aurora Orchestra. Actor Simon Russell Beale reads extracts from the Nativity.

Cast and crew


Katie Derham
John Rutter
Simon Russell Beale
Gerald Finley
Elin Manahan Thomas


Andy King-Dabbs
Helen Mansfield