A welcoming brass band outside the Philharmonic Hall provided a charming and stirring festive curtain-raiser to this year's much-loved and anticipated Spirit of Christmas shows.

I was hoping for snow to complete the picture, but it didn't matter. Once inside the Phil it feels as if you have stepped into a giant snow globe.

The annual series of concerts are warm, sparkling occasions that are a must for families, friend reunions and any tinsel-coated get-together.

They have been meticulously planned each year to offer something for everyone and they never fail to be a celebration of all that is great about Merseyside talent.

Two Christmas trees either side of the stage along with back projections of the nativity, religious icons and other Yuletide scenes contribute to the intimate atmosphere.

The words for traditional and non-traditional songs are displayed, too, for those who want to join in. It's not compulsory, but happily you can't help yourself being part of a communal sing song.

Everything about the Spirit of Christmas shows is about individual and collective celebration.

The compere is TV presenter Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason in her second year as the affable host following on from John Suchet's decade at the helm.

Her introductions and poetry reading of Oh Christmas Tree along with seasonal messages of hope, peace and understanding ticked all the boxes.

Guest performer for 2023 is Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Rudge who was outstanding throughout. Sweeping on stage in red ball gown, she looked like a flame flickering brightly during every song whether an either an aria or a stunning interpretation of popular Christmas themed standards as Over the Rainbow and I Could Have Danced All Night.

Conductor Ian Tracey, who has worked with Kathryn before, looked on with sheer admiration as she received rapturous applause for her versatility, Her interview about her Liverpool roots and career was both sparkling and uplifting.

It is all about team work and what a line-up there is in Liverpool: The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir were joined by the ever excellent Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir under director Simon Emery.

The first half opened with Rejoice and Be Merry and ended with It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas.

The success of these shows is the mixture of old and new, The background stories of the carols and composers is always an enjoyable part of the proceedings - entertainment and education with more than sleigh bells on.

And the beautiful arrangements offer a new take on familiar classics.

O Come A Ye Faithful and In the Bleak Midwinter joined Silent Night in succession of magical presentations.

A finale where orchestra and choirs donned festive hats added to the all-encompassing sense of sharing happiness as they sent the audience off with George Michael's Last Christmas.

Outside in Hope Street the concert lovers went home well and truly spirited, so to speak.

The Spirit of Christmas concerts are joyous, reflective and optimistic events consistently inviting and inspirational with a real sense of being part of a local and global community.

I am not the only one looking forward to the 2024 programme already

Verdict: 5 Stars

A Glorious Extravaganza.

The concerts are on until Friday, December 22.

Performances are Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Tickets from 0151 709 3789