AN ACCLAIMED Troon choir founded to stage just one charity concert way back in 1998 are celebrating their landmark 20th anniversary with two special performances this Christmas.

Marr Cappella will present The Journey in Portland Church on Wednesday, December 6 and St Meddan's Church the following night.

And the musical evening will encompass both the past and the present.

Sheena Hope, one of the original members, has written the lyrics for the main piece in the second half of the programme.

She said: "Originally Betty Penman, who founded the choir, was asked to do a concert for the Ayrshire Hospice in 1998. Because she had done the Marr College Senior Choir she phoned around people who had been in it to join. At first it was supposed to be one concert but that sold out within a week so we decided to do two concerts. We all loved it so much we wanted to do it again and here we are 20 years later. Betty will be a special guest at the Christmas concerts.

"Everyone who is in the choir enjoys singing and we get on really well together. Most of the choir have been at Marr years ago. I have always enjoyed singing. Betty's son Alan Penman has also written a piece for the choir to be used in the first half of the concert.

Liz Varrie, chairwoman is delighted with the music used for the landmark concert.

She said: "To commemorate the fact that it's 20 years the first half is basically music which was done in the first concert, including Little Town of Bethlehem, the Holly and the Ivy, Gabriel's Message and Jingle Bells and the second half will be the new piece by our Musical Director Steven Sorley. So it will be from the old to the new. We've been planning for this since February. This is the beginning of Christmas for Troon - the start of the festive season."

Added Steven: "We have called the concert The Journey, which is the name of the special piece I have written for it and also of course it's a Christmas journey for us all. I would say it's quite a thing for a community choir to still be together after 20 years. A lot of them can came and go,

There are three original members of the choir - Sheena, plus Joan Davidson and Rosalind Webster. Rose's daughter Marnie, born two weeks before the first concert, is also in the group.

Sheena said: "That's us into the second generation now - I think Marnie was in the audience at the first concert 20 years ago.

Steven is relishing what will be his sixth concert with the Troon group.

He said: "The new piece is based on lyrics written by Sheena and has a little ensemble - two pianos, two flutes and a bass. It has six different parts with four different interludes so the whole thing will run as a continuous piece. This is the first piece I have done for Marr Cappella. I enjoy conducting and writing and this is the first time I have written a big choral piece which is very personal to the group. The choir don't realise just how good they are to be able to sing some of the things. We have a good balance with eight basses and eight tenors."

Proceeds from this year's concerts will be split between the Ayrshire Hospice and Waverley Care, which supports people with HIV and Hepatitis.

Steven said: "They are both good causes to support."

In the 20 years since being established, the group have supported 33 different charities, raising more than £80,000. Funds come from the sale of tickets, programmes and general donations.