YULETIDE revellers raised their voices in song as a Christmas cracker of a concert heralded the start of the holidays with a bang.

Hundreds of festive fundraisers flocked to the 17th annual St Teresa’s Hospice Christmas Cracker concert, an evening of merriment and music at The Dolphin Centre Darlington.

The seasonal spectacular, led by musical director John Forsyth, included performances from the St Teresa Sinfonia Orchestra and Choir, comprising members of the Cleveland Philharmonic Choir, Cleveland Philharmonic Junior Choir, Cockerton Ladies Choir, Darlington Choral Society, Egglescliffe Senior Choir, Richardson Singers, Vocal Collective and the Vocal Soul Community Choir.

VIP guests included Darlington’s Mayor Coun Jan Taylor, with her escort, Coun Chris Taylor and President of the Hospice Board of Trustees Alasdair MacConachie.

The audience enjoyed a special performance by the newly formed St Teresa’s Hospice Staff & Supporters Choir with their renditions of Sydney Carter’s Every Star Shall Sing a Carol and I Wish It Could be Christmas Every Day, by Wizzard

Renowned professional soprano Rowan Pierce made a special appearance on the back of a recent international performance in Madrid to perform at the Cracker Concert for the first time in five years, Dominic Barberi, who recently appeared in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition, delighted concert goers by joining in with the massed choirs after performing a solo rendition of Some Enchanted Evening from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

Both Dom and Rowan’s support for the Christmas Cracker Concert goes back to their school days as members of the Tees Valley Youth Choir.

A moment of light relief was provided in the form of popular Darlington piano tuner Ken Bainbridge performing on a musical saw, accompanied by a solo cellist, after attempting to repair an out of tune baby grand with the serrated tool.

Raffle prizes were up for grabs with items including luxury hampers as well as a special prize for the best Christmas jumper.

The event was sponsored by Sherwoods, Seaton Leng, MT Print, Darlington College, Whitehouse Funeral Service, 1st Stop Party Shop, CAG Management Solutions Ltd and Tees Valley Music Services and is expected to raise in excess of £3,000, with matched funding from Barclays and Lloyds bank for the pioneering Darlington Hospice.

St Teresa’s chief executive Jane Bradshaw said: “: “This wonderful concert heralds the start of the festivities and, once again, we have been treated to wonderful performances from all of our invited guests and the massed choir and orchestra, headed up so well by John Forsyth.

“I can’t thank everyone enough for their donations of time and talent at Christmas and to our wonderful audience for helping us to raise much-needed funds to continue our work.”