Ken Burton, and a number of Adventist singers, were heavily featured in BBC1's Songs of Praise in two Easter programmes filmed in Jerusalem, specially commissioned by the BBC as part of the BBC 'Year of Belief' season.
The first programme, aired on 14 April, followed Holy Week, and featured six singers and musical director Burton visiting and talking about their experiences in places such as the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, believed to be the site of the crucifixion and burial.
Ken Burton, a regular face on BBC1's Songs of Praise, was given an enormous responsibility: create a multicultural, mainly young choir of twelve singers from across the country from different walks of life, arrange thirteen pieces of music, create soundtracks for all thirteen pieces, and vocal produce the guest celebrity soloists: Shaun Escoffery, who plays Mustafa in the West End's Lion King, recording artist Laura Wright, and the programme presenter and singer Aled Jones.
Ken does not view the arranging process as a merely technical operation, but an act of worship, as it is very often that new and deeper meanings are discovered in songs we have been singing for years in our churches.
Other Adventist singers who were part of the twelve-voice choir were: Rochelle Burton (Ken's niece), Debra Simpson, and David Billett ‒ all from the Croydon Adventist church, Wolverhampton's Jeharna South, Enfield's Angela Moikeenah, Newbold theology student and London Ghana's Kwame Mensah-Sarpong.
The filming schedule in Jerusalem was very full, but rewarding, as the choir filmed songs in a cathedral, at the Tower of David, the Mount of Olives, and an incredibly stunning video in the Judaean desert.
Not all was plain sailing however; during the filming of one of the songs, an Orthodox Jew, clearly disturbed by a group singing of Jesus, decided to shower down stones on the singers, in a reminder of the very real tensions that exist in the country. Fortunately, no-one was hurt, and the group's bodyguards (whose clients have included HRH Prince Harry) ensured the continuation of filming.
Nothing detracted from the immense joy experienced over the time spent there, and every single singer, and crew members of the production companies which make the programme, was unanimous in agreeing this was a life-changing experience.
Songs of Praise
21 April BBC1 ‒ 13:15.
The first programme is available until May 12 on BBC iPlayer