This year's York Community Carol Concert at The Barbican promises to be very special - and not just because it is the concert's diamond jubilee event, says STEPHEN LEWIS

SOME time after 5pm on December 14, 1958, the Lord Mayor of York Cllr Albert Leslie Philipson paused as he was leaving a packed Tempest Anderson Hall following the city's first annual Community Carol Concert and made a remark that was to become prophetic.

"A tradition has been started - and must be continued each year!" he said.

Little could he have known that almost 60 years later, the tradition begun that afternoon would still be going strong.

This December will see the 60th annual York Community Carol Concert. The event outgrew the Tempest Anderson Hall years ago, and has moved from venue to venue around York ever since. The old SS Empire (now the Grand Opera House), the Rialto, the Central Methodist Hall, the Wesleyan Chapel in Priory Street and the University of York Central Hall have all at one time or another hosted the event. This year, as for the last several years, it will be held at The Barbican.

The venue may have changed: but the principles behind the annual concert remain the same as that very first concert, organised in 1958 by council worker and former Royal Marine (CHECK) Fred Bradbury.

Fred, a keen bandsman since childhood, dreamed of a carol concert that would bring together people from all backgrounds not in an act of worship, but simply to enjoy the pleasure of joining in singing Christmas carols - while at the same time raising money for worthwhile local charities. That remains unchanged to this day. "It's a concert, not a service," says Fred's son Graham, who took over as the organiser of the annual concert after his father died in 1994 (CHECK). "We want everybody to be able to come along and celebrate Christmas in their own way."

That very first concert in 1958, attended by a packed house of 400 people, raised the not inconsiderable (for those days) sum of £24.6s.0d. That was split equally between the Lord Mayor's Christmas Cheer Fund and the Yorkshire Evening Press Toy Fund.

Last year's event, at the Barbican, raised £5,000, of which £2,000 went to The Press's nominated charity, York Mind; £2,000 went to the Lord Mayor's fund; and the remainder was distributed to other charities.

The hope is that this year's Diamond Jubilee event at the Barbican on Sunday December 17 could raise even more.

His dad would certainly have been hugely proud to see the concert he initiated in 1958 still going strong all these years later, Graham says.

And he'd probably have been particularly delighted to see the programme for this year's event.

In honour of the 60th anniversary, it will be a very special concert, promises Graham.

The performers this year will include the York Railway Institute Band, which performed at that very first concert in 1958. And the programme will include all the carols performed then - including The First Nowell; Angels from the Realm; It came upon the Midnight Clear; and Silent Night.

It will also include a brand new carol, however, written by York's own Steve Cassidy - 'We Love It When It Snows' (CHECK).

As usual, the Rev. Andrew Foster, York Hospital's recently retired chaplain, (CHECK) will MC the concert. He's become something of a tradition himself, says Graham. "He does magic tricks, and tells terrible, awful jokes. The audience expect it now!"

But this year's event will be very special for another reason. It will be the last time that the Community Carol Concert's long-term musical director John Warburton will conduct at the event.

John has been a regular conductor for almost 40 years - in fact, this will be his 39th carol concert since his first in 1962, says Graham.

The sight of his bristling mutton chop whiskers has become almost synonymous with the concert. But age catches up with all of us.

He has already handed over the baton of musical director to Mike Pratt (CHECK). And while he'll stay on as the Community Carol Concert chairman, this year will be your last chance to see him conduct a carol at the event.

Don't be surprised if there's a standing ovation. "We want to give John a good send-off!" Graham says.

So say all of us.

BLOB Carols at York Barbican, the 60th York Annual Community Carol Concert, York Barbican, 2.30pm, Sunday December 17.

Performers will include the York Railway Institute Band, York Civic Youth Choir, CANsing, John and Angelina Warburton, the York Musical Theatre Company and the Steve Cassidy Band.

Tickets, priced £7.50 (adults), £6 (senior citizens and under 14s) or £24 (family ticket for two adults and 2 under 14s) available now from The Barbican, or from