A carol concert set the tone for Christmas with thousands of pounds raised for charity last night.

The annual City Charity Christmas Concert at All Saints Church, The Drive, Hove, was attended by hundreds of people.

The audience packed into the church to hear the All Saints, St Peter's and St Christopher's Choirs.

The singers were accompanied by the London City Brass and organist Alex Voice.

International mezzo soprano Marcia Bellamy joined them and delighted the audience with a number of solos.

Proceeds from the event, organised by a committee chaired by Lady Averil Bryson, will be divided between The Martlets Hospice and The Argus Appeal, which supports needy people throughout Sussex.

Newsreader Nicholas Owen, a longtime supporter of The Argus Appeal, narrated a completely new version of the Story of Christmas.

He told the audience the concert started Christmas a little early but he was extremely glad so many people were willing to join in.

He said: "It's a treat to be back here for the second year. I'm very pleased to be a supporter for several years of The Argus Appeal and The Martlets Hospice."

This year's Christmas story was written especially for the occasion by Brighton-based poet and playwright Stephen Plaice whose recent work includes the librettos for Sir Harrison Birtwistle's chamber opera The lo Passion.

The conductor was Michael Maine, head of lower school and director of music at St Christopher's School in New Church Road, Hove, and director of music at Hove Parish Church.

Martyn Willis, managing director of Newsquest (Sussex) Ltd, publisher of The Argus, was among those who attended last night's concert.

He said: "It was a spectacular, moving event and expertly narrated by Nicholas Owen for the second year. The whole concert was really professional. Everyone involved deserves great thanks for all their hard work."

With its magnificent decor, All Saints has been the ideal setting for Christmas carol services over the years and last night's concert drew an ecstatic response from the audience.

Last year's concert raised more than £12,000 for charity but organisers are hoping this year's event will raise even more money once ticket sales and the audience collection have been added up.

Lady Bryson said: "It's great to raise so much money for good causes.

"All Saints is our biggest church in this area, apart from St Peter's, so the concert is always of a high standard.

"The music is always good every year and people always want to come."

Derek Hunnisett, of Brighton Square, sponsored the concert. He said: "The concert is a meeting of the two great charitable causes and sets a precedent for Christmas which the public welcomes.

"The standard of the speakers and music is of the highest quality, and sets the tone for what Christmas should be about."