Friday, 30 July 2021

Children take centre stage for Living Advent

CHILDREN took centre stage as the Henley Living Advent Calendar entered its third week.

CHILDREN took centre stage as the Henley Living Advent Calendar entered its third week.

They danced, sang and played instruments at venues across town for the fifth annual fund-raising event.

There was also a surprise appearance by former children’s entertainer Floella Benjamin, who gave a Christmas reading.

Hundreds of people have turned out to watch and listen to the performances and charitable donations are almost at a record high.

Richard Rodway, who chairs the calendar, said: “We have raised more money for the charities in 15 days than we did over the full 24 days last year, so it has gone really well.

“I think our aim of involving more charities than ever before has encouraged people to dig deep night after night after night.”

The calendar, which is sponsored by Higgs Group, publisher of the Henley Standard, raised £3,350 last year.

On Wednesday last week, members of the Henley Children’s Theatre sang to a crowd of more than 60 people in the rear garden of estate agents Simmons & Sons, off Bell Street.

The children, aged four to 13, wore Santa hats and reindeer antlers to perform a collection of songs including festive classics Let it Snow, White Christmas and Santa Clause Is Coming To Town.

The children were led by Muffin Hurst, who runs the group, and it featured a solo by Annabelle Hoogenberg.

Ms Hurst said: “I think they did very well. It’s tricky because we’re very busy rehearsing for our pantomime and we’re trying to do these songs as well, so they have done very well to learn them all.

“The children get very excited because they love performing. I feel proud of them.”

The performance was in aid of the Chiltern Centre for disabled children in Henley.

Paul Barrett, who chairs the charity’s trustees, said: “I think Henley is very lucky to have this Living Advent  Calendar.

“What is so wonderful is the support that Henley gives to it. God bless the people of Henley who turn out to support it. It’s a lovely way of approaching Christmas.”

Knox & Eames provided mince pies and mulled wine. On Thursday night, about 70 children sang and danced at Henley town hall.

More than 150 parents and relatives were packed into the main hall for the performance by the Rupert House School choir and three dance groups led by Henley instructor Stephanie Maxwell.

Pupils from the independent school in Bell Street, Henley, sang four Christmas songs, Love Shone Down, Little Drummer Boy, Candlelight Carol and You Raise Me Up.

Ms Maxwell’s street dance crew performed a routine to Mariah Carey’s Santa Claus Is Coming To Town before the Rupert House dance crew, whom she also teaches, danced to a modern arrangement of Hark The Herald Angels Sing.

Finally, the two groups danced alongside Steph’s Dancing Divas and Dudes, some of whom were as young as three, to Have A Very (Very, Very) Merry Christmas.

Ms Maxwell said it was a “fantastic” evening and she was proud of the children.

On Friday night, a mother and daughter performed for a 100-strong audience at the town hall.

Violinist Laura Reineke, founder of the Henley Music School, was accompanied by Mae, 15, on cello.

Then a rock choir emerged from the crowd in flash-mob style for the second half of the 30-minute event.

The group performed Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin’ Stevens and Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen.

The event was partnered by the jewellers Studio 35 in Duke Street, which is run by Mrs Reineke’s husband Antony and provided festive biscuits and drinks and eight raffle prizes.

On Saturday night, members of the Henley Amateur Operatic Dramatic Society performed at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road for an audience of about 100.

Eight vocalists and a pianist performed Santa Baby, Jingle Bell Rock and Carol of the Bells.

A collection and raffle raised money for the Face of Henley charity.

Rev Glyn Millington, minister at Christ Church, thanked the audience for their  contributions.

Prizes were donated by celebrity chef Antony Worrall Thompson and the Che hair salon. Tesco provided refreshments after the event.

On Sunday night, Baroness Benjamin was the star attraction. She gave an animated and amusing reading of The Twelve Days of Christmas by John Julius Norwich at Hotel du Vin in New Street.

More than 100 people crammed into the hotel courtyard, which had been transformed into a fireside setting.

Afterwards, spectators were encouraged to join in with a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The Henley Literary Festival hosted the event, providing mulled wine and mince pies and there was a collection and raffle in aid of the Sue Ryder hospice at  Nettlebed.

Prizes were donated by the festival, the hotel and the Spice Merchant restaurant.

On Monday night, four girls provided a heartwarming interlude during a performance by the Henley Choral Society.

Libby Clark, five, Maggie Meredith, seven, Martha Dickson, seven, and her sister Ella, 10, answered a call from conductor Wendy Hawkins asking for help.

The girls stood in a line in front of the audience of about 60 at the Bull on Bell Street pub before singing two verses of Away In A Manger.

Earlier, about 40 members of the society entered the pub courtyard from the rear before performing Ding Dong Merrily, Once In Royal David’s City and Jesus Christ The Apple Tree before closing with a rousing rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

There was a collection and raffle on behalf of the Henley Festival Trust, which is raising money for new musical instruments for children at Camp Mohawk in Wargrave.

On Tuesday night, 11 children from the Stagecoach Theatre School sang and danced in the reception area at The Henley College’s Deanfield campus rather than in the grounds due to rain. The audience watched from under gazebos outside.

Their set began with a dance to I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and was followed by them singing Half The World Away from this year’s John Lewis Christmas TV advert.

Then came Say Something (I’m Giving Up On You) and a medley of songs from the Lion King to close.

Principal Clare Gosling said: “The students did brilliantly working in an unusual space. I’m incredibly proud.”

The event partner was Pachangas restaurant in Duke Street, which provided chicken wings and quesadillas. Wyfold Riding for the Disabled was the charity  partner.

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