13 December – Gillotts Voices in Secret Garden
Day 14 saw the crowd gather in the secret courtyard garden at the back of Simmons & Sons offices in Bell Street.
Normal host Richard Rodway had the night off and colleague Alexis Lane from the Head Partnership was the compere for the evening.
The surprise performance was Gillotts Voices who sang a mixture of carols and festive songs including Frosty the Snowman, Hark the Herald and finished with the brilliant 12 Days of Christmas with the students holding cards up for each gift throughout the song.
Catharine Darnton, Headteacher said, “We were very honoured to be selected to be part of the Living Advent calendar. The lights in the garden at Simmons and Sons made for a very atmospheric venue and it was lovely to hear Gillotts Voices singing out into the quiet winter’s night.”
The evening was raising money for Bishopswood School.
14 December – Double the Surprises at Two Locations
For the first time in the history of the Living Advent Calendar, the evening saw two performances at two different locations.
The first performance was an untempo jazz set by 8 piece band WotJam, a group from Whitchurch who get together for a “jam”, featuring Anna Del Nevo on violin from Henley at Henley College. Neighbours to the College, Lawlors the Bakers provided the audience with delicious festive goodies from the bakery.
The second performance saw the Living Advent Calendar go to The Close on Greys Road where David Eggleton from the Gainsborough Residents’ Association had lit up the big fir tree and arranged for resident, Jonathan Frost, aka Trogg to perform. Jonathan sang Over the Hills and Monster Mash before members of Henley Rock Choir led the Christmas sing-song.
The charities for the evening were the Teenage Wilderness Trust and Oxfordshire Mind.
15 December – Angelic Voices Light Up Holy Trinity Church
Ava & Mae Reineke opened the 15th night’s performance with an angelic brilliant performance of O Holy Night at Holy Trinity Church before over 30 children from Henley Music School then performed playing instruments or singing Christmas carols and songs which included Ding Dong, Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells. This was the first time the Living Advent Calendar had visited the church which was packed out with families and friends. Children has young as four performed including Jemima on the cello who had only just started learning the instrument in September.
The Jazz Band played a rapturous Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen before the performance finished with the choir singing the Christmas Alphabet song which saw the young children hold up different letters to form the word Christmas. A very cute ending which the audience loved!
The big audience full of rightly proud parents generously donated and bought raffle tickets to raise funds for the night’s charity Millie’s Dream. “It was one of our most successful nights of 2016 so far, in terms of fundraising” commented organiser Richard Rodway, who presided over the raffle, ably assisted by some young members of the Music School. We are grateful to Laura Reineke (founder of the Music School) for her spirit and enthusiasm, not just tonight, but throughout the event, and it’s great to see so many children having a lot of fun. It’s what the season is all about”.
16 December – Felix and Lucky to be Alive Rock the Town Hall
Felix Richardson, aged 9 from Sacred Heart opened the evening with a brilliant rendition of Wonderwall by Oasis. Felix first performed in Henley at Music on the Meadows playing Love Me Do on his ukulele this was his first gig with a proper guitar. Felix is Matt Richardson’s son, lead sing of Lucky to Be Alive who then went on to perform rock classics including Sweet Home Albama, Keep on Running and Superstition.
Matt said afterwards, “I’m so proud of Felix. He has only been playing the guitar for nine weeks. He knew that Lucky To Be Alive would be playing at the Town Hall and, two weeks before the event, asked if he could play Wonderwall by Oasis with the band. He had 10 days to learn it and I told him he wouldn’t be allowed to play at the gig unless he practiced every day. He practiced with me and with Didi (his sister – seven years’ old) on drums but most of the time on his own. On the night, he helped the band set up and was interested in every aspect of the gig, the sound equipment, etc. He had never played a guitar in public and never played with a band before but he opened for us, starting the song unaccompanied which takes tremendous courage. When the band joined for the second verse it was very noisy but he held his nerve and played and sang brilliantly all the way through. Unless you’ve done what Felix did on Friday, it’s impossible to understand how challenging it is. I am absolutely staggered at how brave and confident he was and how proficient he is at playing the guitar and singing so soon after beginning to learn. I think I’d better get a T-shirt with “Roadie” written on it and forget my performing days. What a boy!”
The evening’s raffle was raising money for the Fish Volunteer Centre who support and transport for the local community in and around Sonning Common.