Ed Sheeran goes head-to-head with himself in race for Christmas No 1

<span>Photograph: The Portraits/PA</span>
Photograph: The Portraits/PA

A band who accused John Lewis of copying their arrangement for a Christmas song are going head-to-head with Ed Sheeran for this year’s Christmas No 1 slot, using one of the pop superstar’s own songs.

Alt-folk group the Portraits were selected on Wednesday by the Official Charts Company as one of 13 contenders to top the Christmas charts.

They are performing a pared back, orchestral version of Ed Sheeran’s Photograph with a video which features 300 portraits of people who lost their lives to Covid. Funds raised by the new single, which launches on Thursday, will be donated to two charities helping people through the pandemic: Cruse Bereavement Support and Mental Health Ireland.

The Portraits produced a version of Philip Oakey and Giorgio Moroder’s 1985 electro-pop classic Together in Electric Dreams for Christmas 2020. That track also featured photos of people lost in the pandemic. John Lewis featured Oakey and Moroder’s track in their Christmas ad this year.

The Portraits accused the company of plagiarising their arrangement of the track. John Lewis strongly denied this but subsequently made what the Portraits say was a “substantial donation” to the two charities to which the Portraits donated the proceeds of their 2020 song.

The Portraits have some stiff competition with Ed Sheeran and Elton John’s Merry Christmas track a strong contender along with Adele’s new album – several tracks from this album are performing strongly – as well as Abba’s Little Things and George Ezra’s reworking of Come on Home for Christmas.

The Portraits, Jeremy and Lorraine Millington, said they were thrilled to be contacted by the Official Charts Company on Wednesday to be informed that their new track has been added to the Christmas No 1 Contenders list.

The email said: “Best of luck with the campaign – it’s such an important cause and the clip of the video is very moving.”

Jeremy Millington said: “We’re absolutely over the moon. Our new track is a memorial for the loved ones lost in the pandemic.”

The couple’s 15-year-old daughter, Ciara Mill, who herself recently came down with Covid, performs lead vocals on the track. The Somerset County orchestra and the Skylarks, a Somerset choir, have also participated in the track. It will be released in partnership with the Yellow Hearts Facebook group, which has established a Covid support network.

The race for the No 1 spot starts formally on 17 December and the winner will be announced on 24 December.