ABOUT 1,500 visitors packed Durham Cathedral for a starstudded charity carol concert last night.

The sold-out Carols of Light concert, which featured Joe McElderry, Sir Thomas Allen, Rick Wakeman, Barbara Dickson, Kate Adie, Steve Cram and many others, is expected to have raised £80,000 for the Sunderland Association Football Club’s (SAFC) Foundation and Durham Cathedral’s Music Endowment Fund.

The event got the Royal seal of approval, with Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, taking to the lectern to deliver a reading, and signing the Durham Cathedral visitors’ book before the service.

The Right Reverend Justin Welby, the newly-appointed Bishop of Durham, the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, the Dean of Durham, former Foreign Secretary David Miliband MP, TV presenter and architect George Clarke, former Sunderland captain Kevin Ball and former Animals keyboardist Alan Price also contributed, with Sir Tim Rice taking the role of concert producer.

The evening followed the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols format, with plenty of opportunities for the audience to sing along.

However, it also featured premiere performances of If I Could Wish For One Thing – a new carol written by North- East school children – and a Sir Tim Rice adaptation of the David Essex hit A Winter’s Tale by Joe McElderry, from TV’s the X Factor and Popstar to Opera Star.

Speaking before the concert, the South Shields-born 20-year-old said: “It’s a pleasure to be here. The venue is amazing. It’s the most ridiculously amazing acoustics ever.

It sounds fabulous.”

He also sang In The Bleak Midwinter, accompanied by Kathryn Tickell playing the Northumbrian pipes.

Sir Tim said rehearsals had gone well and he was quietly confident of delivering a great night’s entertainment.

“I’m a trustee of the SAFC Foundation, so I thought I should do something. We’ve got some very good artists involved,”

he said.

Organiser Carolyn Ramsbotham, a member of Durham Cathedral’s fundraising board, said: “We’ve had a really exciting time putting the night together.

“It’s so exciting that people are involved from all across the community.”

Funding for the concert came from Hargreaves Services, the Gillian Dickinson Trust and many others.

The SAFC Foundation works with more than 40,000 children every year in education, health, inclusion and sporting programmes across Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Durham Cathedral’s Music Endowment Fund works with 800 children every year to keep music alive in North- East primary schools and offers bursaries to help children from poor backgrounds become choristers.

The concert’s proceeds will be split equally between the two charities.

􀁧 A hospice will hold its annual Light up a Life service in Durham Cathedral this weekend.

St Cuthbert Hospice’s annual service, which invites people to pay tribute to a loved one through donating to the hospice in their memory, will be held on Sunday at 6.30pm.