Friends of St Mary Magdalene - Events Archive 2000-2003

Words & Music For Christmas - 19th December 2003

A real live nativity set!
A real live nativity set!

Words & Music for Christmas has become a favourite for everyone in the village, and it signals the arrival of Christmas festivities.

This year was no exception and it is always incredible to see all the talent that exists in Helmdon. From the seasoned "old pros" to the young children taking part for the first time, all performed wonderfully and a packed church was thoroughly entertained for 2 hours.

The committee of the Friends of the Church (chaired by Vanessa Vicars) organised the event and served traditional mulled wine and mince pies during the interval.

The evening's entertainment started with Wiggy Smith and Louise Stothard telling a tale of "Cops & Robbers" in Ol' London Town with Wiggy ending up stealing presents from the audience as Grandma Swag.

Next up were the recorder players Matthew Riley and Clare Connery who played Old Lang Syne and Cradle Song beautifully, followed by Jean Spendlove who conjured up vivid scenes with her reading of "Comprehending It Not" - a tale of a young child's view of post-war Christmas. The audience were then held spellbound by the amazing voices of Leanne and Emma Griffiths who sang the Shawn Colvin classic Christmas song "Little Road to Bethlehem".

Lyndsey Glassett then took the stage to inject some humour in to the proceedings by reading out an account of Benji the dog's Christmas. Those dog owners in the audience could identify with the stealing of chocolates and the use of the Christmas tree as a lamppost by their canine companions!

The hand bell ringers
The hand bell ringers

One popular group at Words & Music is the hand bell ringers and this year they surpassed themselves with a perfect rendition of Good King Wenceslas, Silent Night and Unto Us A Child is Born.

Jane Heaton followed the ringers with a reading entitled "Little Donkey" and then the church choir rounded up the first half with the trio of "Shepherds Cradle Song", "The Little Cradle Rocks" and "A Merry Christmas".

Ross & Chris - don't give up the day jobs!
Ross & Chris - don't give up the day jobs!

So that was the end of the first half as far as the programme stated - but wait! - on came Ross Vicars and Chris Gartside, Helmdon's newest double act! In a - now you don't need your Christmas crackers any more - sort of way they recited the corniest Christmas jokes you can imagine, including such classics as "What does a cat on a beach have in common with Christmas? Answer: Sandy Claws"!

After suitable refreshments and chit chat we were all entertained by Vanessa Vicar's "Nativity Set" which came to life to give us their perspective of Christmas. Being packed away in a cardboard box for 11 months of the year can't be much fun - but being displayed in a stable is better treatment than the poor old Christmas fairy gets!

Lyndsey then returned to give an individual rendition of "Mary's Boy Child" on an electronic keyboard and Viv Watson read from "Spanish Main".

Jenny Overson gave a reading entitled "The Magic Apple Tree" which described the joy, and reality, of Christmas carol singing in an English village. I'm sure Helmdon's carol singers will experience the frozen hands and frosty breath when they go round the village next week.

Another favourite act at Words & Music is the wonderful flute playing of Bee Aczel and this year's audience were not disappointed! Bee was accompanied by Martin Cox on keyboard and Emma Griffiths on vocals for "Love Came Down at Christmas" and then Bee and Martin gave a wonderful rendition of "In the Bleak Midwinter". Both compositions were written by Martin and he is definitely a new talent that we welcome to the village.

A return to humour saw Chris Gartside read "Christmas Present Tense, Future Perfect", a poem he wrote himself which issues a stark warning to all husbands who are leaving it until the last moment to buy a present for their nearest and dearest. Surely that can't apply to any HYHOs in the audience?!

A few songs later and Words & Music was over for another year. This report has been slightly longer and more detailed than usual. It is intended to let the organisers and participants know that their time and efforts are very much appreciated - and we hope the tradition continues for years to come.

Report by Danny Moody

Last Night of the Proms - 13th September 2003

On Saturday 13th September around 55 people attended an open air, large screen viewing of the "Last Night of the Proms" held at Home Farm, courtesy of Gill and John Watson. A fish and chip supper was served, wine was consumed and flags were waved at the appropriate moments. The weather was perfect, the venue was perfect, everyone had a great time and over £330 was raised for the continuing job of maintenance of the church.

Thanks go to everyone who attended, helped on the night and donated raffle prizes. Specific thanks to Paul Stothard for the loan of the projector, Gareth Dean for the loan of the screen and especially to Gill and John Watson for the loan of their house!

Chris Gartside.

Helmdon Carnival - 25th August 2003

The Friends provided teas at the Helmdon Carnival again this year and raised £220 for the Friends' funds - thanks to all who provided cakes and help on the day

Vivamus Event An Outstanding Success - 5th July 2003

Vivamus at Glebe Farm
Vivamus at Glebe Farm

The open air concert held at Glebe Farm on Saturday 5th July was a great success, both artistically and financially for the Friends.

As expected, the performance from the London based choir Vivamus was of the highest caliber. The programme included standards such as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Ain't Misbehave", interspersed with unexpected gems like "Nellie The Elephant"!

The choir was conducted by the founder, Joseph Nolan, who also played some superb piano solos.

Normally Vivamus perform classical and church music, so their departure into a completely different sphere made it even more impressive.

Although the sun did not make its appearance the weather stayed dry, which meant that the audience of around 100 people were able to picnic on the grass as intended. The marquee and gazebos which had been erected "just in case" were fortunately not needed for shelter and instead housed tables laden with food and drink.

The lovely garden of Glebe Farm created an impressive setting - a bit like a smaller version of a Stowe open air concert, but with more flowers. The evening ended with a firework display, with the additional feature of a communication breakdown between the host and the remote Land Rover!

The event was conceived by David Mason, who had suggested that the Friends could help in the organisation and benefit from the proceeds. As a result, over £500 has been raised for the continuing task of maintaining the church. Thanks go to David, not only for thinking of it, but also for his substantial sponsorship - also to Fiona and the rest of the Mason family, who all worked very hard in the preparations. We are also very grateful to the Carnival Committee for the use of the new Carnival marquee, or at least one-third of it.

Chris Gartside

Fund Raising Quiz Night - 24th January 2003

£184 was raised by the Friends at a fun quiz held in the Reading Room on Friday 24th January.

Ross Vicars set the questions - "The questions were all very easy" said Ross, "It's the answers that may have been a bit hard!". Vanessa Vicars played the quizmistress.

Twelve teams took part on the night, the winners being "The Bar Team" (Christine, Dave, John and Val) - beating the Awesome Foursome (the Braybrooks and Mantles) by a single point.

The evening raised much needed money towards the repair and upkeep of the church - and most importantly, finished early enough for the organisers to clear up and get into the Bell before "Last Orders" were called!

Ross & Vanessa would like to thank all those that took part - "Since all the proceeds go to fund the work of the Friends of St Mary Magdalene, the support and participation was greatly appreciated".

Words & Music In The Church -
20th December 2002

John Roberts conducted the church choir
John Roberts conducted the church choir

Words and Music in the Church attracted its usual large audience who enjoyed a programme of well presented Christmas offerings, featuring both adults and children.

Amongst the highlights were the excellent singing of pupils of Helmdon School under the direction of Conrad Woolley, the competent playing of the Handbell Ringers (much improved from last year!), the Church Choir (whose "I Saw Three Ships" was particularly enjoyed), and a tuneful children's quartet, accompanied with style by Lyndsey Glassett on her piano accordion. Particular mention must also be made of some of the solo items. Bee Aczel played an excellent flute solo, Cantique de Noel, Chris Gartside spirited contribution was "Suddenly it's Christmas", and Santa Baby was beautifully sung by Leanne Griffiths. The readings were by adults, with one exception - a delightful rendering of the poem "Christmas Thank You's" by Natasha Brown.

Vanessa Vicars and Conrad and Liz Woolley were the guiding spirits behind the evening. They were helped ably by the committee, who provided a veritable feast of mulled wine, mince pies, sausage rolls and other delicacies during the interval.

The Last Night Of The Proms -
14th September 2002

The BBC Proms - click to visit the BBC web site
The BBC Proms

The Last Night of the Proms event on Saturday 14th September was a success in every way. It was held at The Old Glebe, the home of Richard Watson, starting with a fish and chip supper then joining in with the televised celebrations at the Albert Hall.

The weather was kind enough to a allow the big screen to be set up outdoors, but with a second conventional wide screen TV inside as a back-up. In the usual spirit of the event, Union Jacks were waved and voices were raised. The presence of certain members of the church choir ensured that some of these voices were in tune. Many people dressed up for the occasion, some even resorting to silly hats.

This is the first time an evening of this kind has been held but the comments afterwards suggest that it might become an annual event. The demand was such that more tickets were sold than were originally printed - over 65 people attended (Some were slightly younger!). Final figures are not in yet, but we expect that more than £400 will have been raised for the "Friends" funds - all of which is used to help in the maintenance of the "fabric" of the church.

Thanks to all that attended for their support - also special thanks are due to Richard Watson for allowing us the use of his beautiful house and garden.

Chris Gartside

Return, Again, Of The Porterhouse Jazz Six
- 22nd June 2002

The Porterhouse Jazz Six
The return, again, of the Porterhouse Jazz Six

Once more Helmdon Church rang to the sound of the Porterhouse Jazz Six, who were playing as part of the excellent feast of music provided by the Brackley Music Festival.

This year the group's regular trombonist, Graham Allsworth, made an appearance, ably backed up by Martin Horsfall (trumpet/cornet and vocals) and Colin Nash on clarinet. Margaret Thompson was again on bass and Dave Arnold on drums with the group's new boy Charlie Oliver on banjo, making a driving rhythm section.

The music was varied, ranging from the genius of Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke, to the tough uncompromising jazz from the early "white" bands of Chicago (such as the inappropriately named New Orleans Rhythm Kings), early revivalist jazz from the 1940s, and much more.

The programme featured some "community" singing led by the illustrious trio of Chris Gartside, Mo Skermer and Keith Bristow. We also had the special pleasure of teenager Hannah Rudman playing "Stranger on the Shore" accompanied by the group.

The music was exciting and swinging, and the audience went away happy to have enjoyed a great night out.

St. George's Day Supper - 20th April 2002

St George's Day Supper at The Old Glebe
St. George's Day Supper at The Old Glebe

Over fifty Friends gathered at Richard Watson's house, The Old Glebe in Radstone Road, on Saturday 20th April, to celebrate St. George's Day.

An excellent supper was served, and the money raised was for Church funds.

Guests all wore something red in honour of our patron saint, and enjoyed the supper so kindly provided by the Friends.

Wine Tasting Evening - 23rd November 2001

John & Gill Watson hosted the Friends at Home Farm
John & Gill Watson hosted the Friends at Home Farm

John and Gill Watson hosted a wine tasting evening at Home Farm on Friday, 23 November, for the Friends of the Church. S & H Jones of Banbury supplied the wines, and great fun was had tasting all his wares. There were a few "Jilly Gooldens" among the group, and the wine that tasted of green peppers was much remarked upon! Excellent cheese helped the conviviality along, and a good time was had by all.

The final event of the year for the Friends of St. Mary Magdalene is Words and Music For Christmas, which takes place in the church on Friday 21st December.

Return of The Porterhouse Jazz Six - 30th June 2001

The return of the Porterhouse Jazz Six
The return of the Porterhouse Jazz Six

The church was full for the return of the Porterhouse Jazz Six, who played at Helmdon as part of the Brackley Music Festival. The performance was exciting and the audience enjoyed as good a jazz night out as it was possible to have!

Dave Arnold was on drums, Martin Horsfall on trumpet, Colin Nash on clarinet, Ron Radford on trombone, Richard Strange on banjo and Margaret Thompson on bass. The group have just celebrated their first anniversary together, although they have been playing in various guises for much longer. They got together with the aim of playing the type of jazz which interests them most.

As well as interesting them, it took ourbreath away. The group all played with gusto, and the audience were soon swaying and jigging (albeit still in their seats!) to the beat of the music. For this performance the first part of the programme was in the "Roaring 20s style" (otherwise known as the White Chicago School) with such rousing favourites as Tiger Rag, The Basin Street Blues, What a Wonderful World. Hello Dolly and The Sunny Side of the Street.

Then it was the audience's turn to join in with well-known spirituals such as Lead Me On Precious Lord and Just a Closer Walk with Thee, although the clear favourites were I Shall Not Be Moved and Down by the Riverside.

Last year thirteen-year old Hannah Rudman joined Colin to play Stranger on the Shore. This year she had gained in confidence and competently performed Petite Fleur as a solo.

St. Patrick's Day Party - 17th March 2001

Some of the Friends enjoying the St Patrick's Day supper
Some of the Friends enjoying the St. Patrick's Day supper.

Forty Friends of the Church gathered at the home of Paul and Louise Stoddart on Saturday 17 March. It was a St. Patrick's Day party, and everyone had to wear something green. An excellent supper was provided and an enjoyable time was had by all present.

The chairman, Vanessa Vicars, thanked everyone for supporting functions over the last year.

Bob Wallis receives his gift from Vanessa Vicars
Bob Wallis receives his gift from Vanessa Vicars

Presenting a gift of a folding chair to Bob Wallis Vanessa Vicars thanked him, on behalf of the Friends, for all the hard work he had done right at the beginning of the fund raising, and for being one of the early Friends. Bob and Gay Wallis are leaving the village for a new home in Ludlow, Shropshire and everyone wished them well.

The person who was to become St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born in Wales about AD 385. His given name was Maewyn, and he almost didn't get the job of bishop of Ireland because he lacked the required scholarship. Far from being a saint, until he was 16, he considered himself a pagan. At that age, he was sold into slavery by a group of Irish marauders that raided his village. During his captivity, he became closer to God.

Words & Music In The Church - 15th December 2000

St. Mary Magdalene Parish Church in Helmdon was full for "Words and Music in the Church" on Friday 15th December 2000.

The evening's entertainment included singing by the Church choir, hand bell ringing by Bee Aczel's Group, flute, violin and piano playing by Bee Aczel, Conrad and Liz Woolley with the 1st movement from Dvorak's Sonatina Opus, "Gabriel's Message, Starry Night" sung by Natalie Haughton and Leanne and Emma Griffiths, and Madeline and Elannah Barnes and Jessica Quiney were beautiful angels, singing Angels' Song.

Interspersed were carols for everyone, and readings by Jean Urban, Chris Gartside, David Derbyshire, Ann Smith, and Morag Underwood.. Sheri Brand and children, with David Derbyshire, injected comedy into the proceedings with "T'was the Night Before Christmas".

The varied programme showed the depth of ability in the village. Mulled wine and Christmas goodies were dispensed in the interval. It was a great evening and the work put in by the Friends of the Church was much appreciated.

The Coventry Male Voice Choir - 28th October 2000

The Coventry Male Voice Choir

Friends much enjoyed the City of Coventry Male Voice Choir who gave a concert in the church on Saturday 28 October. At one time there were 15 male voice choirs in Coventry - that was in the days when it was a major centre of industry. The City choir is now the only one left singing in traditional four part harmony. We were privileged to have them travel to Helmdon.

The varied programme included spirituals, folk music, songs from the films and from the theatre. Memorable were Andrew Lloyd Webber's Love Changes Everything, A Miller Medley ( lots of happy heads a' swaying here), and the concert came to a rousing conclusion with Rogers and Hammerstein's You'll Never Walk Alone, and the Battle Hymn of the Republic. The musical director was Valerie Hocking and the accompanist was Sally Aitchison, who delighted the audience with her solo performance.

For more on the Coventry Male Voice Choir in general click here.

The Porterhouse Jazz Six - 7th October 2000

The audience who attended the jazz evening in aid of funds for the Friends of St. Mary Magdalene, held in the church on Saturday 7 October, had a rare treat.

The Porterhouse Jazz Six

The Porterhouse Jazz Six - Dave Arnold on drums, Martin Horsfall on trumpet, Colin Nash on clarinet, Tad Newton on trombone, Richard Strange on Banjo and Margaret Thompson on bass - gave a programme divided into four sessions, which included old favourites such as the Tiger Rag and the Charleston (which got everyone's feet a-tapping), spirituals such as "I shall not be moved" (a chance to sing), popular music such as "Give me Sunshine", and more serious jazz including a selection of Beiderbecke.

One of the highlights of the most enjoyable evening was when guest Hannah Rudman, aged 12 years, delighted the audience when she joined Colin Nash to play "Stranger on the Shore" on the clarinet.

Safari Supper - 16th September 2000

Members enjoy a delicious supper