HARK ... A beautiful Blue Christmas is the order of these late December days thanks to world famous Czech musician Pavel Sporcl with his unique blue violin.

Christmas in the Phil is a must for families because they go the extra merry mile from the two huge trees on either side of the stage to the well-rounded festive programme they put on.

This year Pavel is the special guest and what a gift he is.

This annual concert exudes warmth and atmosphere and he contributes greatly.

But then again every single person on the stage does, too.

The lovely back screen projections are enough to set you in the mood.

And hearing the xylophone and the Phil's own bells given solo slots, so to speak, it all adds even more surprises .

The orchestra and choirs - including the youth members - ensure the spirit-o-meter soars.

Host John Suchet beams with enthusiasm.

He is as cheerful as his red waistcoat.

This week the Classic FM presenter broadcasts live from the Albert Dock so what better way to round off the day than celebrating carols from across the world than with an audience who have a reputation for lapping up such seasonal singalongs.

The ever-jovial and much-loved conductor Ian Tracey clearly loves this annual engagement - especially when he stirs the wide-aged group audience during the many participation numbers.

There is so much packed into these wonderfully paced and carefully planned series of concerts.

There are readings from Mr Suchet conveying the work of Bill Bryson and the poetic side of Alan Titchmarsh.

He also fills us in on the origins of certain carols from the traditional to the lesser know more modern compositions.

It led to people next to me saying "Well, I never knew that," as carols from across the world wistfully took us away.

There are many highlights in each evening - the type of celebrations which would have appealed to Charles Dickens who brought the festive period firmly back to communities.

Back to that 'blue violin'. It is as distinctive and striking as its charismatic owner.

"It matches my eyes," declares Pavel

Whether he touched our heartstrings with Ave Maria or Still Still Still, Pavel is consistently mesmerising.

He mentioned his album Christmas on the Blue Violin.

And, like many new converts, I managed to get a signed copy during the interval - the Spirit of Christmas had hit me.

That said, when you hear Pavel on such haunting performances as Stille Nacht you cannot fail to be lifted.

Following a roof-raising O Come All Ye Faithful the finale was extra special even by the Phil's standards.

I stood applauding - feeling like I was inside a giant snow globe as we all sang White Christmas.

I won't give away what happens but you get the picture.

Now that's a memory to cherish ... till next year.

Sheer comfort and joy.

Five stars

Until December 22

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