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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Hannah Roberts and Lydia Chantler-Hicks

BBC star shares emotional musical tribute to George Alagiah following London memorial service

A BBC star has shared a moving video tribute to the late news presenter George Alagiah following a memorial service held in London.

Veteran BBC broadcaster Mr Alagiah died in July at the age of 67, following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Steve Rosenberg, Russia Editor for BBC News, played an emotive four-minute piano piece during a memorial service at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, near Trafalgar Square, on Tuesday, accompanied by a video montage of Alagiah.

Sharing the video on X, formerly Twitter, after the service, Mr Rosenberg said it was "an honour" to perform at the "emotional, uplifting celebration" of Alagiah's life.

Rosenberg played a medley of songs, beginning with a moving rendition of the BBC News theme tune, which segued into the hymn Lord Bless Africa, and then Swahili song Malaika or 'angel'.

Meanwhile a video showed clips of Alagiah in the BBC studio and reporting on location from Africa; as well as shots of him reflecting on his life, his childhood in Sri Lanka and Ghana, meeting his wife, and raising their children.

Responding to Mr Rosenberg's tweet BBC presenter Rajini Vaidyanathan, who was at the ceremony, described the musical tribute as "a very special moment" that inspired "immense pride" in Mr Alagiah.

Former BBC newsreader Simon McCoy wrote: "Your contribution made today’s service the best tribute to a wonderful man. We shall all miss him."

Three weeks before his death Alagiah dictated to his wife, Frances Robathan, words he wanted to be read aloud at the memorial, according to the BBC.

These were read at the end of Tuesday's service by his former BBC News At Six co-presenter Sophie Raworth.

A final minute-long round of applause for Alagiah was given before Raworth read: “If you haven’t already told the people you love that you love them, tell them;

“If you haven’t already told them how vulnerable you sometimes feel, tell them;

“If you want to tell them that you’d like to be with them until the front hall stairs feel like Everest, tell them.

“You never know what is coming around the corner.

George Alagiah was one the BBC’s longest-serving newsreaders (Press Association Images)

“And if, lucky you, there is nothing around the corner, then at least you got your defence in first.”

BBC director general Tim Davie also got up to address the congregation during Tuesday's memorial service, saying: “To a whole generation of audiences, [Mr Alagiah] was the very best of us.”

Broadcasting giants including Fiona Bruce, Mishal Husain and Nick Robinson were also present in the congregation.The BBC reported that the service also heard stories from Alagiah’s sons – Adam Alagiah-Glomseth and Matthew Alagiah – who read passages from their father’s books.

Elsewhere, his sisters – Mari Martin, Rachel Stojan, Chris Dennington and Jenny Johnson – spoke of the profound impact of migration on their childhoods.

Alagiah was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before his family moved to Ghana due to ethnic unrest, later being educated in England.

The BBC paid tribute to the presenter during Tuesday’s BBC News At Six.

Reporting from the memorial service, journalist Jon Kay said: “In all the tributes, one clear message. That what mattered most to George was family.”

Among those paying their respects to the newsreader online was TV presenter Jeremy Vine, who wrote on X, formerly Twitter: “May this wonderful man rest in peace.”

Meanwhile, BBC reporter Kay wrote that it was “an honour” to report on the memorial service.

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