Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Advent calendar performers raise £3,500

CHILDREN took centre stage in the final performances of this year’s Henley Living Advent Calendar.

CHILDREN took centre stage in the final performances of this year’s Henley Living Advent Calendar.

Twenty-four members of the Henley Children’s Theatre Group sang a mixture of group and solo renditions of festive songs while gymnasts turned the centre of Henley into a virtual winter wonderland for their display.

The two shows were followed by the traditional St Mary’s Church Choir performance on Christmas Eve.

The final three performances drew some of the biggest audiences, with the latter numbering about 250 people.

The calendar, which is in its fourth year, is a charity initiative sponsored by Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley Standard.



Each night in December until Christmas Day, acts including singers, dancers and musicians have staged 30-minute shows at various venues around the town.

Bucket collections were taken in addition to a nightly raffle and calendar-themed hats were also sold.

The theatre group performed on the Henley Rugby Club on Monday last week. Microphones and festive lighting were set up in front of the 150-seat stand, which was full to capacity forcing people to stand.

The children, led by Muffin Hurst who runs the group, began with Jingle Bells before Little Snowman Little Snowgirl, by Mandy Miller.

The biggest cheers were given to Soraya Chopra and Lorelei Southwell, who sang Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day, by Al Hoffman and Maurice Sigler.

Other songs performed by the group included, Away in a Manger, I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas and Pantomime.

The group is in its 45th year and has a cast of 100 children. Ms Hurst, the granddaughter of founder Flavia Pickworth, is celebrating with a new production of Snow White, which was the first pantomime she directed when she took over 25 years ago.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be performed at the Kenton Theatre daily until Sunday (January 4).

The following evening, children from Henley’s Springbox Gymnastics performed routines in Market Place.

Crash mats were set up on Falaise Square in front of the town’s Christmas tree and the area was cordoned off as about 200 people crowded round to watch.

The event opened with some gentle gymnastics by some of the school’s younger members, who were dressed as Christmas elves and fairies.

An inflatable runway was then set up for some of the older children to perform cartwheels along. At one point, they laid down in a line while their friends somersaulted over them.

They then showed off their skills on a series of vaulting horses before finishing with a dance routine set to All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey.

The carol concert was the traditional finale. St Mary’s Church Choir performed a number of traditional festive hymns outside the front of the church in Hart Street, including O Come All Ye Faithful, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Away in a Manger. Bucket collections were taken each night and themed hats were sold in addition to a raffle.

The money will be split between the Henley Regatta for the Disabled, the Chiltern Centre for disabled children, Camp Mohawk, near Wargrave, Headway Thames Valley and the Riverside Counselling Service.

It was the fourth year of the calendar, which was sponsored by Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley Standard.

Richard Rodway, chairman of the calendar, said: ?I think it went well. The audience numbers have held up throughout and the feedback has been really positive. ?We have managed to involve many different parts of the community as we showed in the final week. On the Monday and the Tuesday we had children?s events and then on Christmas Eve we had people coming together for one final sing-song.

?You can?t go wrong with carols. When the audience joins in and everyone sings as one it epitomises what this collaborative event is all about.?

Mayor Martin Akehurst, who attended about half the events, said: ?The calendar is one of those things that makes Henley what it is.

?There were so many people who gave up their time to make sure that it happened as well as the performers and those people rattling buckets and running raffles. It was really heartening to see so many people rolling up their sleeves for everyone to benefit.?

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