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Living Advent choir rocks Leander lawn
Published 12/12/13

THE Henley Rock Choir entertained a crowd of more than 200 people outside Leander Club for this year’s Living Advent Calendar.

The 42 men and women sang festive hits including Last Christmas and All I Want For Christmas Is You and there were solo performances by Ben Dowling and Sadie Hellon.

The choir were then asked by the audience for “one more song” and obliged with John Farnham’s You’re The Voice.

Choirmaster Lucy Hewes turned round to face the spectators, who included Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak and Mayoress Catherine Allen-Notaras, and encouraged them to join in by clapping.

Saturday night’s performance was the seventh night of entertainment for this year’s calendar and drew one of the biggest crowds so far.

Each night of the month until Christmas Eve, surprise acts are giving 15-minute performances at a range of venues across the town in aid of charity.

The Rock Choir also performed on the opening night of the first calendar in 2011 and were asked back by founder Julie Perigo.

She said: “I have a particular fondness for the rock choir and they were probably my favourite performers of the week.

“This was one of the first times an encore has happened. They were just so infectiously joyful that people wanted a little bit more.

“They made other people want to sing and we heard a number of people saying they might enquire about joining.”

Miss Hewes said: “It went so well and it was great to do an encore on the spur of the moment. The singers have such a large repertoire now and I’m really proud they went for the spontaneity.”

After the performance, the choir had a Christmas party in Leander Club.

On Wednesday last week, 19-year-old singer-songwriter Toby Marlow performed onboard the New Orleans, owned by Hobbs of Henley. He played three Christmas songs and one of his own tunes on a keyboard in front of about 125 people.

The following evening, members of Henley Choral Society performed carols on the steps inside the River and Rowing Museum.

Ms Perigo said: “It was lovely because people joined in with all their favourites. It was a beautiful evening.” Friday’s performance, which coincided with the Christmas Festival, was held outside Boutique 97 in Friday Street.

Alan and Jane Asher, who own My River Cruising in Caversham, and Jamie Tipper played festive songs in jazz style on a saxophone, keyboard and drums.

The numbers included Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and Mr Asher shouted “Merry Christmas, everybody” to the crowd before launching into a rendition of Jingle Bells.

About 140 people saw the show and some of the children in the crowd danced.

Ms Perigo said: “It was great because with the Christmas Festival on at the same time there were people who just happened to be passing through Friday Street and saw their first Living Advent Calendar evening and they are now fans of it.”

On Sunday, more than 100 people were crammed into the Finlay Suite at Phyllis Court Club to see the Dough Boys jazz band, from Lawlors Bakery. The musicians played a medley of seasonal tunes, including Walking In The Air and Silent Night.

Click here to view our picture gallery of some of those who attended.

On Monday night, town centre manager Peter McConnell performed as one of a comic musical trio called No Direction outside the Stuart Turner factory in Greys Road.All three musicians were dressed as Father Christmas and entertained their audience with their humorous take on festive songs.

The Henley Brew House provided mulled cider, sausage rolls and goat’s cheese tartlets.

Ms Perigo said: “One audience member remarked that they were more of a dad’s band than a boy band.” On Tuesday, eight pupils and three parents from Badgemore Primary School sang traditional Swedish folk songs on the terrace of the Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse restaurant in Station Road.

They were dressed as characters from Swedish folklore, including angels and elves, and arrived in a procession holding candles and singing Sankta Lucia. One girl wore a crown of candles.

The performance was to mark St Lucia’s Day, a church feast day held in Scandinavia on December 13.

Ms Perigo said she conceived the idea of the calendar in Henley after watching a similar event in Stockholm.She added: “It’s beautiful to see these children here with a Swedish Christmas ritual.”

On Wednesday, the Crossfire Hurricanes played Rolling Stones’ songs to more than 100 people outside the Angel on the Bridge pub.

Mike Rowbottom, a member of the band, said: “It was a lovely night. We played there for the Henley Fringe festival in July where we were inside and dripping with sweat but here we were close to sub-zero temperatures playing outside.”

The calendar has so far raised more than £2,200 for the Henley Youth Centre, the Regatta for the Disabled, Fourbirdsaboating and the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal through nightly collections, a raffle and the sale of beanie hats.

Ms Perigo said: “We’re averaging more than 100 people each night, which is fantastic. We would love to beat what we raised last year and I think we’re ahead of where we were at this point last year. Henley people are generous and we would like them to keep being so right up until Christmas.”

Published 12/12/13

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