By Mark Shields
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Norwich’s historic St Andrew’s Hall came alive with the spirit of Christmas last night as the EDP Festival of Carols rang in the festive season.
The lightest dusting of early-December snow set the scene perfectly at the 15th-century hall as crowds arrived for the sell-out event.
And the 700-strong audience were treated to a spectacle to melt even the coldest of hearts as the Festival Choir, the Broadland Youth Choir and the Cawston Band led them in performances of classic carols.
The festival, now in its 17th edition, this year raised money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance and the Eastern Daily Press We Care Appeal.
Canon Roger Royle once again led the event, having missed last year’s through ill-health, and marked his return by chiding the audience good-naturedly for their lack of practice after a stuttering start to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.
The Festival Choir, formed each year specially for the Festival of Carols, performed three pieces, including a playful rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.
The hall then fell silent for a haunting rendition of Walking in the Air by the Broadland Youth Choir, before Peter Wilson, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, read Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Canto CVI, which he dedicated to former EDP arts and literary editor Charles Roberts, who died earlier this week.
EDP editor Nigel Pickover, who also read during the service, said the Festival of Carols heralded the true arrival of Christmas in Norwich.
“What a wonderful start to Christmas – seeing the warmth, the joy and the love of the congregation, the family of the EDP all together in one place at the same time,” he said.
“It’s a super evening and made extra special by so many good causes being helped.”
Johnny Hustler, managing director of Archant Anglia, the EDP’s publisher, said: “It’s an amazing and unique evening every year, and it says so much about the role of the EDP in the community.”
Paddy Seligman, chairman of the EDP We Care Appeal, which supports unpaid carers of all ages, said events such as the Festival of Carols were of vital importance in allowing the charity to continue its work.
“The generosity of people and the wonderful support we receive never fails to astonish me, and the festival gets better and better every year,” she said.
“It’s so fulfilling to know that there are such generous people out there who are willing to support causes such as ours.”
Mrs Seligman said the We Care Appeal, which was established in 2000 with the aim of raising £1m, had helped 191 people in 2012.
“It’s so important that we continue to raise funds,” she said.
“When we started out, a million seemed like a huge target and yet here we are, now more than £60,000 into our second million.”
Money collected at the Festival of Carols will be split with the East Anglia Air Ambulance, which is being supported by the Eastern Daily Press, its sister paper the Norwich Evening News and publisher Archant’s Suffolk titles, the East Anglian Daily Times and the Ipswich Star.