Television Choices: Using music to help foster harmonious relations


Barenboim on Beethoven: Nine Symphonies That Changed the World

Saturday 9.20pm BBC2

The conductor Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's cycle of all-nine Beethoven symphonies may be the highlight of this year's Proms, but it is also the culmination of a three-year Beethoven-for-all world tour, in which Barenboim and his mixture of Israeli and Arab players have spread their message of peace and reconciliation – mediated through Beethoven's idealistic music. This documentary watches conductor and orchestra at work at their base in Seville, Spain, but begins with a symbolic 2011 performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, half a mile from the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea.

The Dark: Nature's Nighttime World

Sunday 9pm BBC2

Most animals live by night, while most wildlife films are shot by day – for technical reasons and the fact that humans tend to be awake then. Using thermal imaging, George McGavin and a team of biologists observe the nocturnal world, starting in Costa Rica and the mystery of why turtle carcasses are strewn on the beach each morning.

The Midwives

Tuesday 9pm BBC2

"The joy of triage... the unexpected," says veteran midwife Gill, reflecting what the film-makers must have felt as they alighted on the busy labour ward at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. The opening episode involves a battle of wills between Gill and a groaning, heavily pregnant mother-to-be who refuses to go home despite being told she's not in labour.

Britain's Oldest Stand-Up

Monday 10pm More4

Would you feel comfortable heckling a 90-year-old Chelsea pensioner? You would? This documentary follows nonagenarian Jack Woodward as he tries to revive his stand-up comedy career and perform at the Hammersmith Apollo. He began in northern working men's clubs, then on troop ships during the war. Can modern comedians help him update his act?

A History of Art in Three Colours

Wednesday 9pm BBC4

James Fox explains how the colour blue was a relative latecomer to art – the Ancient Greeks didn't even have a word for it. This changed when Arab traders imported "Lapis Lazuli" – a precious stone which can be ground down to blue pigment – to 13th-century Venice, Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel in Padua being the first "blue masterpiece".

Amish: a Secret Life

Thursday 9pm BBC2

Last year's Leaving Amish Paradise followed a couple forced out of the anachronistic religious community in Pennsylvania. This one meets Miriam and David, a couple happy with the 300-year-old traditions, but risking their community's ire by being filmed. They agreed after a two-day conflab with God, and are rewarded with a thoughtful, unexploitative documentary.

Soham: A Parents' Tale

Friday 9pm ITV1

It is now 10 years since the dreadful events of August 2002 in Cambridgeshire, when 10-year-old Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were murdered by Ian Huntley. Wells' parents, Nicola and Kevin recall those dark days, and how they have battled with their unimaginable loss, rebuilt their lives and, in the process, helped change police procedure.