A FAMILY of musicians stepped in to save a Henley Living Advent Calendar show from being cancelled.
Singer Toby Marlow, 18, and his parents Andy and Helma came to the rescue at the last minute to perform at the River and Rowing Museum.
Musicians from the Henley Symphony Orchestra had been due to appear on Thursday last week but pulled out when their flautist caught laryngitis.
Organiser Julie Perigo contacted Mrs Marlow, who had sung at Phyllis Court Club on the second night of the calendar, and asked her to help.
The family rehearsed five festive favourites, which they performed for a crowd of about 100 people, including Olympic rower and new Leander Club captain Debbie Flood.
Toby sang Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, White Christmas, Silent Night and The Christmas Song, accompanied by his father on a 12-string guitar.
The pair were then joined by Mrs Marlow, who joined Toby for a duet of Baby It’s Cold Outside.
Toby said: “We were a bit nervous because it was so last-minute. You normally have more time to psych yourself up, but it was fine. It was a lovely crowd, all smiling and Christmassy.”
Toby and his father appear regularly together at the La Bodega restaurant in Hart Street. Mr Marlow also plays with the English Guitar Quartet and The Springfields, who were recently reformed by singer Mike Hurst.
Flood collected money for the Living Advent Calendar’s charities, Camp Mohawk, Sue Ryder and the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, having herself sung with 11 fellow GB rowers for last year’s calendar. This year’s calendar has now raised more than £3,000.
She said: “It’s such a fantastic idea — not only does it help raise money for charities but it also gives a chance for local people to show enthusiasm and passion for what they do.”
She called the Marlows “absolutely amazing”.
The Living Advent Calendar consists of 24 performances at different venues in the run-up to Christmas.
The acts include poets, dancers, comedians and musicians but artists’ identities are kept secret until the night.
Last Friday, the d:two centrein Market Place hosted a puppet Nativity play starring three bouncing camels and a children’s chorus. Henley MP John Howell was among the visitors.
The following night, the El Amanecer dancers showed off three types of Argentinian tango at Station Road restaurant La Barca.
On Sunday, members of the Stageworks Performing Arts School performed excerpts from their pantomime Aladdin at Lovibond’s Brewery, off Greys Road. More than 150 people attended both weekend events. Among this week’s calendar stars were the cast of the Kenton Theatre’s pantomime Cinderella, which opens tonight.
On Wednesday, they acted out short excerpts from the panto at the New Street venue. On Tuesday night, Christ Church in Reading Road hosted a traditional Nativity play. The evening was attended by Tim Stevenson OBE, the Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, who said: “I think this is a great initiative — having a Living Advent Calendar is an idea that we can try to spread around the county.”
Mrs Perigo said: “It’s very ‘Henley’ to show the way and it’s great to know we did it first.
“I’m really thrilled with how it has all gone. I’m hoping that the closer we get to Christmas, and the more mulled wine people drink, the more generous they’ll be and that we’ll get to £4,000.”
The remaining Living Advent Calendar performances are as follows (partners in brackets): Today (Friday), Marine Reserve HQ, Friday Street (Bucaroo and Hot Gossip); Saturday, the Fire Station Gallery, Upper Market Place (Henley Shutters); Sunday, The Argyll pub, Market Place (County Wills and Probate); Christmas Eve, St Mary’s Church.
The Living Advent Calendar is a joint initiative between the Henley Partnership and Henley Town Council and is sponsored by the Henley Standard/Higgs Group as well as Invesco Perpetual, the Head Partnership, Sothebys International Realty, Towergate Insurance and South Oxfordshire District Council.
For more information, visit www.livingadvent calendar.co.uk