It is usually broadcast on a Sunday tea time, and it usually includes congregations from various churches and cathedrals singing famous hymns whilst the presenter explores that week's theme. While focusing on hymns, in recent years the shows have become more diverse in its content, typically with a different theme for each show. It has also had special programmes celebrating the lives of famous British Christians, including the late Dame Thora Hird and Sir Harry Secombe. The programme often airs more contemporary themed episodes than it did in the past, featuring modern Christian artists such as Tim Hughes, Stuart Townend, Lou Fellingham/Phatfish and yfriday.
The first show was broadcast in October 1961 from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cardiff, and is now one of the longest-running TV shows in the world. The programme was the idea of the then Assistant Controller of Programmes at the BBC, Donald Baverstock. During its history, Songs of Praise has visited over 1,800 churches, cathedrals and chapels, singing over 12,500 hymns.
It has had many different guest presenters over the years including Sir Cliff Richard, Alan Titchmarsh and Toyah Willcox. However the current main presenters are Pam Rhodes, Sally Magnusson, Diane-Louise Jordan, Aled Jones, Eamonn Holmes and Gavin Peacock.
A number of famous people have been interviewed on the show, including Tony Blair, Frances Shand Kydd, Alan Ayckbourn and members of the British Royal Family. The show also appeared as a feature within an episode of the BBC comedy television series The Vicar of Dibley.
The programme staged its largest event on the first Sunday of the New Millennium at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. A live audience of over 60,000 people came to sing hymns, with a 6,000 piece choir, an orchestra of 100 harps, the band of the Welsh Guards and an anthem special written by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The series won a Merit Award in the prestigious Sandford St. Martin Trust Religious Arts awards in 2004.