CHORISTERS who will voice the words of County Durham soldiers in a First World War centenary recital have spoken of the profound impact it has had on their lives.

The Centenary Choir will perform alongside musicians, professional actors and brass band players from across the region when The Durham Hymns return to the Gala Theatre in Durham on Sunday November 11, at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

A century after peace was declared, the two performances will honour local people who lived through the war, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy drew on soldiers’ letters and diaries stored at Durham County Record Office to write the lyrics, with composers Orlando Gough, Jessica Curry and Jonathan Bates creating the powerful musical accompaniment.

It follows a critically acclaimed performance at Durham Cathedral in 2016 to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and its return is due in no small part to the passion of the Centenary Choir.

Their unwavering belief in the project inspired the singers to raise hundreds of pounds towards the cost of recording a CD to preserve the musical tribute for posterity. This took place at Durham Miners’ Hall at Redhills on October 13 and 14 and featured the NASUWT Riverside Brass Band.

Choir members Brenda Hall and Carole Kay led the fundraising campaign, which was instrumental to securing additional funding from the Army Museum Ogilby Trust.

Ms Hall of Spennymoor, said: “The first time we sang the hymns, I don’t think there was a single choir member who didn’t have a tear in their eye.

“It’s heart breaking to know so many of the soldiers whose words inspired the lyrics didn’t make it home.

“Recording a CD is something we all feel strongly about. It will serve as a lasting tribute to the people honoured within The Durham Hymns.”

Brenda’s sister, Carole, is also from Spennymoor but now lives in Lancashire and travels over to Durham for rehearsals

said: “I’ve sung with choirs for many years but never sung anything more beautiful or moving than this,” she said. “Being part of something as special as The Durham Hymns is an experience I will never forget.”

Marj Wood, of Sherburn, the first person to join the choir, said: “When I first saw the proof of the poster two years ago I was overwhelmed and felt very proud. I can’t emphasise enough how wonderful The Durham Hymns are.”

Organised by Northern Regional Brass Band Trust and Durham County Council, The Durham Hymns also feature the Voices of Hope Choir and the Reg Vardy Brass Band.

Newcastle-born star of stage and screen Charlie Hardwick and fellow North-East actor Micky Cochrane will narrate the piece, under the direction of Annie Rigby of Unfolding Theatre.

Mark Edwards, director of music for Newcastle Sinfonietta, Hexham Orpheus Choir and Northern Praeclassica, is the conductor, while award-winning choir leader Simon Davies-Fidler will return as chorus director.

Simon, who founded the Centenary Choir and Voices of Hope, said: “The recording and performances to come are the result of the enthusiasm and determination of the Centenary Choir.

“I know this project has had a profound effect on the singers and the quality of the music and poetry, along with the skill and passion of the performers is deserving of a lasting record.

“This music is a worthy tribute to the fallen and should be heard again and again.”

Tickets cost £25 (£23 conc). The CD will be available to buy on the day priced at £12.

To book, call 03000 266 600 or visit