HUNDREDS of Bournemouth schoolchildren launched the countdown to Christmas with a stunning Echo-backed carol festival.

Six hundred of the town’s most talented young vocalists, representing 33 schools across the town, filled the auditorium with festive favourites on December 1, 1999.

The 52nd Bournemouth Schools’ Music Association Carol Festival was a truly local affair, with former Bournemouth School pupil Peter Stark taking centre stage as conductor.

For the first time in the history of the event, primary school children joined older pupils on stage at the Winter Gardens.

Highlights of the evening were specially-composed carols by local teachers Ruth Beverly of St Michael’s School and Cathy Beeby of Bournemouth School for Girls.

The Bournemouth Youth Orchestra and Bournemouth Youth Choir were also popular with the packed audience.