Sales of classical music discs in Britain increased by 8 per cent to 14 million last year. This increasing popularity has been attributed to Classic FM, a radio station whose unstuffy approach has been a great success in attracting new audiences, an increasing slew of cross-over musicians who have injected some popular fizz into the traditional classical image, and the razzmatazz of the annual glitzy jamboree, 'The Classical Brit Awards'. While this year's Brit Awards brought together pops' hottest stars such as The Darkness, Beyonce Knowles and Busted, last month's Classical Brits assembled the cream of classical glitterati such as Bryn Terfel, Cecilia Bartoli and Hayley Westenra in London's much-loved circular Victorian concert venue: the Royal Albert Hall. Representing the new pop-classical crossover was former Hear'Say star Myleene Klass who sashayed up the red carpet in a strapless white dress, followed later by gold-clad Singapore violin-demon, Vanessa-Mae. Mutterings of 'dumbing down' and 'sexing up' could be heard among the more conservative-minded. But Rob Dickins, chairman of the Classical Brit Awards, defended the pop-classical elements, saying that the point of the show was to open up as many doors into classical music as possible. The awards show host was popular television news reader Katie Derham. 'These days there's much less silly snobbery about classical music than there used to be,' she said. 'It's now OK to like Benjamin Britten as well as Britney Spears.' Eight awards were up for grabs and it turned out to be a big night for Welsh tenor Terfel and Italian mezzo-soprano Bartoli. She beat New Zealand teen sensation Hayley Westenra, often referred to as 'the new Charlotte Church', to win the best female artist award. Terfel, who was up against strong competition from Nigel Kennedy, won the best male artist category. Terfel has registered stellar sales of more than 300,000 for his album Bryn, released last year, which also took the best album award, seeing off Luciano Pavarotti and Ludovico Einaudi. Other winners included Philip Glass for the contemporary Music Award. Glass composed the film score for The Hours, a film that saw Nicole Kidman win an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf. Maxim Vengerov walked away with the Critics' Award for his recordings of the works of two British composers - Britten's Violin Concerto, and William Walton's Viola Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the great Rostropovich. Last year, musical director and composer Sir Simon Rattle scooped the best male artist award and orchestral album of the year for his live recording of Mahler's Fifth Symphony with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. This year, it was the turn of Sir Simon and the Vienna Philharmonic, winning the award for ensemble/orchestral album for recordings of the Beethoven Symphonies. Classical Brit is an evening that celebrates the increasing popularity of classical music, and is a fine excuse for a party.