17 December – First Timer Bethany Wows From First Floor
Bethany Cox, a soprano and opera singer wowed the audience with her singing on night 17 of the Living Advent Calendar from the first floor of Simmons & Sons estate offices in Bell Street with the audience listening in the wonderful secret garden below.
Before the performance, Henley Mayor, Councillor Glen Lambert spoke about his Mayor’s charities; one of which is Gillotts School who was the benefactor of the evening’s raffle proceeds. His other two charities this year are Henley Music School and Bluebells Community Club for people living with dementia which closed earlier in the year. Glen said, “We’re well on the way to bringing Bluebells back and we’ve applied for charity status.”
Bethany opened her set with the classic festive song Winter Wonderland and went on to sing the carol In the Bleak Mid Winter, The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas before finishing with Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. The festive songs were interspersed with classical pieces including Standchen by Schubert and Porgi Amor by Mozart.
This was the first time the performance at Simmons & Sons was from the first floor window. LAC Organiser Richard Rodway said, “I was looking for an act that would work out of the window and Anna Del Nero recommended Bethany. Bethany’s Dad was the director and cellist at the Henley Youth Chamber Orchestra’s performance at Magoos last week.”
18 December – Young Music Stars Shine at Christ Church
Reverend Glyn Millington welcomed the audience to a packed Christ Church Centre on night 18 of the Living Advent Calendar which saw over 50 children from Henley Music School perform.
The School’s string, brass, ‘windies’ (brass and wind), flute groups plus the band and choir entertained the audience with a mixture of pop songs, carols and festive tunes. The evening started with the Senior Strings performing Ding Dong Merrily on High, after which the Choir sang Cobbler, Cobbler Mend My Shoe which they had learnt using Kodaly (a sign method used to learn to sing – different pitches and rhythm). The Brass Group played Bear Necessities and the Flute Group played Deck the Halls. We particularly liked the band’s performance of Ripe Tide by Vance Joy – leader singer Isobel Young’s vocal was excellent. The performance ended with an upbeat rendition of Jingle Bells Rock.
Laura said, “The kids really are fantastic, and their Living Advent was only a small selection of the 450 young people involved in HMS. This event is probably one of our favourites and we are delighted to be asked back for the 4th year! Huge thanks should go out to all the HMS tutors as well as Richard Rodway, Hugh and the gang for such a great evening. ”
The evening’s raffle was also raising money for Henley Music School which requires £50,000 per annum to provide music education regardless of age, ability, background or means and provides free loan of instruments and 100% bursaries.
19 December – Stagecoach Stars Nearly Singing and Dancing in the Rain
The forecast for night 19 of the Living Advent Calendar was supposed to be a dry clear night but unfortunately about 15 minutes into Stagecoach’s surprise performance at Red Fox Photographic Studio at Henley Enterprise Park, the heavens opened and the young performers and the audience had to relocate inside the studio.
The talented youngsters from Stagecoach Henley, Marlow and High Wycombe performed a set of songs and dance that included a brilliant rendition of Perfect by Ed Sheeran with stunning vocals by Hannah Hobbs and Shallow from the Star is Born film sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Before this two boys performed a superb rap. Once inside the group then performed a dance routine to a medley of Jackson 5 songs including the classics ABC and Signed, Sealed and Delivered. The set ended with a rendition of Jingle Bells.
Bishopwood Special School was the charity for the evening with the proceeds from the raffle going towards buying some new outdoor resources for the school.
20 December – Brilliant Barber Shop Babes
New Living Advent Calendar act The Tonyx made their debut outside The Bell and Hart Surgeries on night 20. The brilliant Barbershop quartet of Louise Johnson, Helen Marlow, Holly Stothard and Ali Kinch. They approached Richard Rodway, organiser of the LAC back in the summer to ask if they could be one of the acts this year.
Before the performance started Richard Rodway welcomed the audience and said “I hope that we’ve finished with patients coming for their flu jabs! (after one gentleman had just gone through the performance area). He then introduced Gemma Wise from Sue Ryder who were the charity for the evening who said, “We’re looking at introducing new services next year which we’re very excited about.”
Night 20 had another first too – the act coming out of a push button door! The Tonyx, met through singing in The Barbarettes in Woodley and have only been singing together as quartet for less than a year. Right from the opening number of Jingle Bells, the ladies put their own unique stamp on the songs with actions, facial expressions, words and noises including a ‘miaow’ from a cat during their rendition of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend. They then went on to sing two Barbershop classics, Java Jive and Let Me Be There plus a beautiful version of Silent Night which is celebrating it’s 200th anniversary this year.
The performance ended with the group’s new written version of Mr Santa (the group’s festive spin version of The Chordettes’s Mr Sandman) and an encore (another first for this year) of Jingle Bells.
Afterwards Helen Marlow said afterwards, “The reception was really friendly and warm. The venue was great and the acoustics were really good and allowed us to shine at our best.” Ali Kinch added, “I been involved in music in Henley for most of my life. I contacted Richard and I’d like to thank him for letting us sing tonight.”