Tim Thurston is a man who must frequently dream about choirs, given how he lives, breathes, well, sleeps too and has indeed sung in one himself for years. Tim hails from the city of Cambridge but has lived in this country for over 40 years. Indeed he represented the Guinness Choir in a music quiz in RTÉ's Abbey Street studios as far back as 1964, blithely unaware that 37 years later, he would be sharing his intimate love of choral music with listeners each Sunday on a national radio station.

Gloria is an early start, mind, at 8.00am, but it used to be earlier, a rather monastic and ascetic 7.00am, when most of us fortunate to be in employment are usually engaged in a lie-in. I wager that some of the late Ciaran MacMathúna's old Mo Cheol Thú constituency - which series used to air on RTÉ Radio 1 around the same time on a Sunday morning - moved their allegiances to Tim's equally soothing and stirring programmes when Ciarán retired.

But Tim was already up and at it himself years ago long before Ciarán retired, when Gloria used to go out at 6.00pm in the evening. (Is there a case to be made for its return to that slot, when most of Tim's listeners are fully awake at that point, we can fairly safely conclude?)

After he presented two series of Gloria on RTÉ's one-time classical music channel, FM3 Music, the programme was one of the lucky few to make the transition to Lyric FM when that station launched in May 1999. Tim continued as presenter, and as he says himself has "not missed a Sunday since."

By the way, he is a man who loves his contempoary jazz too, and, to use an outmoded phrase (but one probably recognised by most of his listeners) he is no Holy Joe, and is first and foremost for purposes of Gloria, a lover of the music. He welcomes listeners of all faiths and indeed none.

For this companion book to his long-running programme, Tim has chosen 20 of the key composers, and written highly accessible, fascinating pen portraits of each. So in the 63-page hardback, you get a chapter on The Age of Chant, which includes useful summaries on the mysterious world of Anonymous Chant, and a look at the life and times of Hildegard of Bingen.

A summary of Renaissance Polyphony - Léonin, Josquin, Palestrina, Byrd, Victoria - is followed by a chapter on the Baroque period, whose great practicioners Monteverdi, Schutz, Bach and Handel are investigated in Tim's highly appealing account.

The choral singing of the Romantic movement (Mendelssohn, Bruckner) and the Twentieth Century are also covered in Tim's comprehensive overview. A useful glossary of terms means you are never left stranded.

A composition by each of the 20 composers, with a Christmas theme, features in the accompanying CD, recordings drawn from the catalogue of the renowned UK recording company, Hyperion. Examples of art through the ages with a Christmas theme adorn this fine work. All the paintings come from Irish collections and some have never before been published. Certain Christmas stockings, we are quite certain, demand that this book and CD be placed within Christmas Eve night. www.associatededitions.ie www.rte.ie/lyricfm/gloria

There a series of six podcasts up on this Gloria webpage to accompany the book. These useful podcasts trace the development of sacred music from early chant right through to contemporary choral classics. Each podcast focuses on a different period of musical development and Tim introduces the key composers of the time alongside musical samples from wonderful Hyperion recordings. You could say they’re everything you ever wanted to know about sacred music, but were afraid to ask!

Gloria Podcasts

Gloria - An Introduction to a Millennium of Sacred Music: Part 1
The Age Of Chant: Anonymous Chant and Hildegard Of Bingen
As Christianity emerged from Judaism, so Christian chant grew principally out of the rich tradition of the Jewish cantor. The chants, immediately recognisable to the faithful, remained central elements of sacred music as it unfolded through the centuries.

Gloria - An Introduction to a Millennium of Sacred Music: Part 2
Renaissance Polyphony: Leonin, Josquin, Palestrina, Byrd, Victoria
The turn of the Millennium saw musicians begin to experiment with two and more independent musical lines. This developed quickly, greatly aided by notation, which allowed for ever more complex compositions.

Gloria - An Introduction to a Millennium of Sacred Music: Part 3
The Baroque Period: Monteverdi, Schütz, Bach, Handel
During the late 16th century Italy saw the beginnings of major developments in all forms of musical composition. The new instrumental styles, the growing popularity of melodic solo rather than choral singing, the greater use of contrast and expression of emotion, and the use of Basso Continuo were slowly incorporated into sacred music.

Gloria - An Introduction to a Millennium of Sacred Music: Part 4
The Classical Age: Haydn, Mozart
In 18th century Europe the spirit of the Enlightenment encouraged freedom in every aspect of life and thought and there was a further loosening of influence of church and monarchy. The emerging symphonic style of the classical orchestra were central features of the Masses of both composers though many 18th century choral compositions were composed for the concert hall rather than for liturgical use.

Gloria - An Introduction to a Millennium of Sacred Music: Part 5
The Romantic Movement: Mendelssohn, Bruckner
The political upheavals of the early 19th Century led to the tension between hope and despair which became a central thrust of the Romantic movement. Opportunities came to composers through the popularity of domestic music making, wide availability of printed music and the development of public concert halls.

Gloria - An Introduction to a Millennium of Sacred Music: Part 6
Modern: Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Poulenc, Britten,Tavener, Pärt
Many sacred choral works of this period look back to the richness of earlier times and there’s been a development of “Holy Minimalism” - compositions of a slow meditative nature with limited melodic or rhythmic development. Against a background of falling church attendance, congregations at cathedral services, especially Evensong, have been growing, thanks in part to the many excellent recordings of the choral repertoire.