Merry Christmas everyone!

A CHRISTMAS without music would be like a Christmas without tinsel. But for everyone fed up with the usual festive compilations, this year The Evening Star and BBC Radio Suffolk bring you a new treat.

A CHRISTMAS without music would be like a Christmas without tinsel. But for everyone fed up with the usual festive compilations, this year The Evening Star and BBC Radio Suffolk bring you a new treat. Star columnist Stephen Foster has handpicked talented artists from the region to sing us a happy Christmas. HAZEL BYFORD reports.

ROCKING around the Christmas tree is set to be a whole lot more fun this year.

It's time to ditch your novelty number one singles and put aside those tacky pop compilation albums, because this December there's only one CD to be listening to.

The Evening Star has joined forced with BBC Radio Suffolk to launch Cool Yule, a charity CD of Christmas tunes.

The CD will feature popular bands and singer/songwriters from the area - selected by radio presenter and Star columnist Stephen Foster - who have recorded brand new festive songs or special versions of originals.

Stephen said: “I had the idea at the beginning of the year, when I had lots of great bands coming in to do sessions on the programme. We chose the best and asked them to take part, and no one turned the opportunity down.

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“In fact, they jumped at the chance to raise money for charity, and take part in what is hopefully going to be a very successful project. There's a great mix of fast and slow and traditional and modern songs.”

Cool Yule is set to raise cash for BBC's Children in Need and the Evening Star's Christmas appeal which is due to be announced soon.

Money raised will be split 50/50 between the two good causes.

All the artists have worked for free, under the direction of engineer David Butcher - who also came up with the name for the CD. Recording sessions have been going on for the past three months.

Stephen said: “It's a line-up of great local artists. We gave them free reign and said if they could come up with their own songs then great, and if not they could do one of their favourites in their own special way.

“Most of the artists have done their own renditions of Christmas favourites with a twist but a few have written songs especially for the CD, the likes of Debs Warren, The Blind Poets and Helen Abbey.

“It's turned out to be a great Christmas selection which people can listen to when they are having Christmas dinner, wrapping up presents or putting up decorations to get in the Christmas spirit.

“It's something different to the usual Cliff Richard CDs!”

Other artists on the 15-track CD, include Tuscan Raiders doing a version of Merry Christmas Everybody, Camel Foot Raiders singing Fairy Tale in New York, The Jon Allan Trio doing a jazz version of Away in a Manger and Andy Pearson doing Elvis' Blue Christmas.

Stephen said: “I don't know of anything like this being done in Suffolk before, it's certainly not in my 15 years or so at the BBC here.

“There have been compilations of bands but not being recorded for one project, particularly for Christmas. I don't even know of anything similar being done round the country, so it might be a complete first. We are now putting the finishing touches to it and it's then ready to go.”

Suffolk artist Michael Coulter was enlisted to paint the design for the cover sleeve.

Stephen asked him to come up with a Christmas scene of the Radio Suffolk building, and the artist came up with a colourful snow-filled scene, with a starry sky and winter birds.

Michael, who taught at Woolverstone Hall School before retiring to paint full-time, said: “I have done a few book covers before, but this is the first time I have done a cover for a CD.

“I know Ipswich quite well and I thought it would be nice to get the Radio Suffolk building in and to also get some of Norwich Road in as well.

“Sometimes it can be difficult knowing where to start, and that's when you have to tie your leg to the table and not leave until you've done it! But sometimes it's easy and you can just get on with it.”

His painting style is well known in Suffolk, thanks to the charity Christmas cards he designs each year. He often finds one of his own designs on landing on the doormat of his home in Melton, near Woodbridge!

“I love going in to a house and seeing my work on the wall, it feel likes it finally finished then, like having it on display is the final brush stroke.

“I often get given cards with my paintings on at Christmas, I've got a friend who always sends me my own cards so I'm quite used to it by now.”

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover said: “Cool Yule is going to make a terrific alternative to the usual Christmas CDs this year.

“We are lucky to have so much musical talent in our region and it will be great for both their fans and new listeners to hear them turn their hands to something new.

“Everyone has a favourite Christmas tune and a soft-spot for festive music so we are hoping it's going to sell well and be a success. The Star is really pleased to be involved with the project. It is raising money for two great causes and we ask our readers to do all they can to help, first and foremost by going out and buying the CD.”

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Cool Yule is due to be available from early December.

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