Picture Gallery: EDP Festival of Carols brings yuletide cheer to Norwich

The EDP Festival of Carols ushered in the festive season in time-honoured musical fashion in Norwich this evening. (Weds)

The lights are twinkling, the mince pies are in the larder... but every festive season needs that one special moment when you truly feel that Christmas is here.

And that occasion arrived this evening for many of the 700 people who welcomed the yuletide season in joyful and triumphant fashion at the EDP Festival of Carols.

The fundraising event, which has signalled the start of Norfolk's traditional festivities for more than 20 years, brought a sell-out crowd which queued around St Andrew's Hall in Norwich.

And as soon as the heartwarming tones of the Cawston Band echoed around the historic venue, it was clear that both the audience and the performers were in fine carolling voice.

The singing was led by the EDP Festival Choir and the Broadland Youth Choir, both conducted by festival veteran Carole Tims, and accompanied by organist Alan Morris.

The familiar repertoire spanned the rousing choruses of Ding Dong! Merrily on High to the angelic solo of Once in Royal David's City which left a hushed crowd spellbound.

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Money raised during the evening will be donated to the EDP We Care Appeal and East Anglia Children's Hospices (EACH).

Among the guests who delivered readings to the audience were Paddy Seligman, chairman of the EDP We Care Appeal, which has raised more than �1m to help Norfolk's carers.

'This event is always a sell-out and for many people it is the beginning of Christmas,' she said. 'It is a wonderful community event which gets the heart-strings singing about the message of Christmas – and of course We Care benefits, which makes it even better.

'It is very fitting that this year we are sharing the proceeds with EACH, who provide respite care for seriously ill people. What we can do is pay for the carer to have a short break while the person they are looking after is in respite care. It dovetails very nicely.'

EDP editor Peter Waters also read a passage from the nativity story. He said: 'For many of us, this was the start of the Christmas festivities. This year was another great success thanks to the professionalism and dedication of everyone involved, particularly those on stage and especially musical director Carole Tims.

'It was a great opportunity to clear our throats, sing our hearts out with some seasonal favourites, and raise some money for two very deserving causes thanks to the generosity of EDP readers.'

The evening was hosted by David Clayton of BBC Radio Norfolk, which will broadcast a recording of the concert on Christmas Day.

He said: 'The EDP Festival of Carols is as much part of Norwich and Norfolk's Christmas as a queue at St Andrew's car park on a busy Saturday.'

Among the audience, looking suitably seasonal in flashing, illuminated Santa hats, were five friends who work together at the Norwich Jobcentre Plus.

Bev Duffield, from Marlborough Road in Norwich, said they had come to watch their section manager David Phillip-Pritchard perform with the Festival Choir.

'We are definitely feeling Christmassy now, and it's all in a good cause,' she said. 'It is the one time of year when you can have a bit of fun.'

Other readings were made by Theatre Royal chief executive Peter Wilson, Sheriff of Norwich Chris Higgins and Archant Anglia's managing director Jonathan Hustler, while the blessing was given by The Ven Jan McFarlane, Archdeacon of Norwich.

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