Words & Music For Christmas - 19th December
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
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
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
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
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!
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
Lyndsey then returned to give an individual rendition of "Mary's
Boy Child" on an electronic keyboard and Viv Watson read from
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
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
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!
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
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
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
Words & Music In The Church - 20th December
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
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
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.
Return, Again, Of The Porterhouse Jazz Six - 22nd
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
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
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 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
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 our breath 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
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.
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
The chairman, Vanessa Vicars, thanked everyone
for supporting functions over the last year.
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
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
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 - 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
Over seventy Friends enjoyed a Safari Supper on
16 September, starting for pre-dinner drinks at "Westview", Wappenham
Road (the home of Lee & Robert Alfandry). Thereafter the party divided
into groups, using six other venues in the village for three courses
of a delicious meal, before ending up together again for coffee
at Lee and Leigh Sparrow's home in Cross Lane. Grateful thanks to
all who participated in any way in the event, which was in aid of
funds for the Friends. The event raised £330.