David S has good ideas. Sometimes he has very good ideas and this event was definitely one of his best ideas (the Spem in Alium concert 2 years ago being another).

7 months ago, before he went away for an extended holiday David put the wheels in motion for this event by lining up Musical Director (James Wharton) and choirs (Quorum, Andante, Parish Singers and The Orphean Singers) as well as Ed Tomlinson and James Westlake.  When he returned from holiday in early April, publicity and voucher sales were the main jobs, as well as some rehearsals!  I organised the booking of MK Music Service young Baroque groups to play in the remaining available slot as we wanted this concert to include performers of all ages.

Only 2 weeks beforehand, David was worrying that we hadn't sold enough advance programme vouchers.  We definitely needed this concert to be a sell out as it involved a lot of performing groups and plenty of behind the scenes organisation by the organ fund committee, mainly co-ordinated by David.  Last year it was time consuming and tiring putting on a musical event almost every month, sometimes more than 1 in a month.  This year we wanted to concentrate efforts on fewer bigger events.  On Friday 10th David S with Ben & James Westlake went on BBC Three Counties Radio to advertise the event as well as the concert Ben was playing at the Stables the following day.  However David need not have worried for the Grand Gala Concert as publicity resulted in 170 vouchers sold before the event, with more people turning up at the door hoping for seats, at the start of the concert we only had about 4 spare places in the nave, with the gallery sides filled.

The programme was as follows:

  • Verdi, Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (all choirs downstairs, in English) - conducted by James Wharton, accompanied on piano by Ed Tomlinson (piano)
  • Bach, Toccata and Fugue BWV565 - played on the Wesley electronic organ (loaned by Jacob Collins) by James Wharton
  • MK Music Service Baroque groups:
    Anon, Duet from the Renaissance - played by Eleanor Page (violin) and Jacob Collins (violin)
    Anon, Sweet Nimphe come to thy lover - played by Eleanor Page and Jacob Collins (violin)
    Schickhardt, Sonata for four flutes and continuo: Adagio - Allegro - played by James Westlake (flute), Connor Bakker (flute), Olli Foxhale (flute), Anna Tholen (flute), Lawrence Rose (cello), Jacob Collins (organ), Steve Thompson (harpsichord)
  • The Orphean Singers - conducted by Kath Hindley
    Jeff Silbar & Larry Henley, Wind Beneath my Wings
    My Heart will go on (from Titanic)
    Time to say goodbye/Con te partiro
  • Gregorio Allegri, Miserere - sung by Quorum and The Parish Singers of St Mary & St Giles Church, conducted by James Wharton
    Semi-chorus in the gallery: Marian Ballance (soprano), Juliet Baxter (soprano), Eleanor Thompson (soprano), Chris Williams (bass), Toby Hill (tenor - cantor)
  • Interval (with wine, juice, tea, coffee and cakes!)
  • A Karl Jenkins Suite, Cantilene - Paladio - Adiemus - sung by Andante, conducted by Roger Windmill, accompanied by Ed Tomlinson (piano)
  • Tomas Luis de Victoria and Thomas Tallis - a sequence of music for Holy Week and Easter - sung by Quorum conducted by Toby Hill, accompanied by Ed Tomlinson (piano)
  • James Westlake (flute), Ed Tomlinson (piano)
    John Denver, Annie's Song
    Jules Mouquet, La Flute de Pan
    Henry Mancini, Moon River
    Francois-Joseph Gossec, Tambourin
  • Widor, Toccata - played on the Wesley electronic organ by Ed Tomlinson
  • Mascagni, Easter Hymn (Cavalleria Rusticana) - Joyce Taylor (soprano solo), Andante, Orpheans and Parish Singers (downstairs), Quorum (gallery) - conducted by James Wharton, accompanied by Ed Tomlinson (piano)

We used the Wesley electronic organ kindly loaned by young Jacob Collins for the organ recital pieces and Baroque accompaniment as the Willis organ is not yet playable.  David's programme notes said 'sit back and let the sound of the temporary electronic organ take you where it will and then imagine just how much more impressive the music will be once the necessary restoration work is completed to our Willis pipe organ!'.

Once again we made good use of the galleries in the church for two choral pieces to surround the audience with lovely sound.  For the Allegri Miserere, the semi-chorus stood behind the Willis organ console area (it is currently at FH Browne being refurbished) while the rest of the choir stood in the lower sanctuary and Toby the Cantor stood half way along the south gallery, this made for a real exchange of 3D sound between parts.  For the Easter Hymn, all of Quorum stood in the console gallery, singing in Latin, whilst the 'villagers' sang (English) in the lower sanctuary.  It was a brilliant way to end a concert.

Afterwards some people lingered to give us their thanks as we started to clear up, which was done in remarkably quick time.   I would like to thank everyone who helped before, during and after the concert - the performers, those who sold vouchers and refreshments and those who set out extra chairs and tidied up.  It was slick, cheerful teamwork.

Emailed feedback included the following comments:

'What a wonderful, inspiring evening! It was an amazing concert, so much variety and so many talented people. I felt truly uplifted.'

'Just to tell you how much I enjoyed being part of such an excellent concert on Saturday evening.  Also to let you know that Haversham folk who attended went out of their way in church yesterday morning to say how very much they enjoyed every element of the evening.'

'Congratulations to all involved in last night’s gala Concert. It was terrific'.

A member of Orpheans said that the Allegri - 'was beautiful and transported the listener to another place.'

'The acoustic here really is very good, isn't it?'

'It was indeed a splendid evening.  I have heard more positive comments than I can count ... I know that this concert, like Spem, achieved so much - it filled the church, had an excellent programme, was performed by local people, gave all a truly uplifting experience, and will make people come back for more.  There are many other 'good things' that will come out of this, I am sure.'

'What a wonderful, uplifting evening. Such a variety of music and so many talented people. I was thinking how lucky we are in this area as there's so much music making going on.  Very inspired, especially by the younger performers.'

'The inclusion of the young in the programming was a great idea – future Gala's should definitely go on being a celebration of diverse local talent. Thank you so much for organising.'

'Many, many thanks for Saturday evening and the wonderful range of music. As people left they were all highly delighted. A huge amount of effort went into this concert and you can all be justifiably be proud (in the right sense of the word) of what was achieved. Much of the choice of music was also a really good witness to the Lord. You certainly left folk wanting more. Every blessing, Fr Ross'

Oh, and how much did we raise for the organ fund?  A splendid £2,031.45!  Many thanks to everyone who made this possible.

[These photos were taken by me using my camera on a tripod by the font, and I was also performing in the joint choir items, which meant a quick walk to join the choir at the last minute.]