Scroll down or click here for my video of the event.
As is traditional in towns and cities across the UK, today saw Maidenhead’s annual Christmas Lights Switch-On event take place in front of the Town Hall. At 6:00pm, from the balcony of the Mayor’s parlour, a young girl who won a competition run by the Maidenhead Advertiser flicked the all-important switch. Hundreds of fireworks were detonated, and the High Street’s hanging decorations were illuminated. Mayor Asghar Majeed helped with the proceedings, fresh from carrying out the same duty in Windsor last week.
Below, for your viewing pleasure, my video of today’s switch-on event.
This evening, I was a participant in a concert at Norden Farm (a local arts centre and small theatre) with my choir, Taplow Youth Choir. It’s a choir I’m really privileged to be a member of, due to my fellow singers’ high standard of musicianship (which dwarfs my Grade Five ability in clarinet, saxophone, and piano).
Yesterday, I left a Jamboree training camp (such is the level of commitment required) to attend a fortnightly rehearsal. It sounded good, but there was one male-voice piece, ‘Down Among The Dead Men’ that was supposed to be memorised. Needless to say, few people knew it at all, and even they weren’t confident with the words. The conductor, the lovely David Manners, simply said “Boys, if you don’t know it now, go home and learn it. Well.”
So, concert day, and at 3:30pm we all rolled up at Norden Farm to begin rehearsals. I’d made a real effort to learn it thoroughly, but we were still unsure at the starts of lines and phrases. Joining us was the Hertfordshire Youth Choir whose men would also sing the same piece. Happily, they were equally uncertain, and after the run-through in the afternoon we all sat down in a green room and learnt the words. We now had the makings of a brilliant concert, so went to our seats on a balcony above the stage.
At 7:15pm, there was no audience. By 7:25pm, I worriedly whispered to the bass I was sitting next to “They’re late opening the house”. Eventually, with minutes to go until the advertised start of the concert, the first few people began trickling in. It later emerged that this was because there had been a severe confusion over who was to be supplying the stewards.
It got worse though. Taplow Girls Choir walked on at 7:30pm not realising the mistake, so the lighting desk-op duly brought down the houselights (despite the auditorium being only half-full), meaning those still not seated had to rush to their seats – dodging over an assault course of handbags and outstretched legs in the process.
Actually, the desk-op wasn’t great at all; missing cues, playing on his phone, and bringing up spotlights where there was no focal point. In his defence, he was young, it was a Sunday night, and such events are always hard to light due to the tightness of the timings in the non-chronological rehearsals.
However, at the end of the day it’s all about the music, and it was tremendous to be able to join with Taplow Girls (our sister choir), and also the guest external choir for a magnificent ‘Festival of Choirs’ as the programme called it. I am, for that, eternally grateful to the choral directors, especially our own Gillian Dibden.
And what about Down Among The Dead Men? It went alright, not well by any means, but alright. In the end, I knew it perhaps best, due in part to my desperate, eleventh-hour lyric-learning during my post-Scout-camp bath…
If the size of the contingent who made their way from Maidenhead to Bristol was anything to go by, the congregation and community at St Paul’s, Clifton, and St Mary’s, Cotham would be left in no doubt that their new priest would be well worth the two and a half years of interregnum they would be leaving. I’m writing of this evening’s induction service, welcoming Richard Holroyd (former Priest-in-charge at St Luke’s, Maidenhead) to his new parishes in Bristol.
The grand organ piped up the first few bars of All My Hope on God is Founded, followed by the wonderful acoustic of St Paul’s wallowing in the sound of the choir and 200-strong congregation. The sermon was given by a familiar face to many of us: Lee Rayfield, former vicar at St Peter’s, Furze Platt. He’s now the Bishop of Swindon and he made a very good point:
“If anyone had spoken to Richard or me ten years ago, vicars of two humble neighbouring parishes in sunny Maidenhead, and told us that I would be his bishop and licensing him here in Bristol today, we certainly wouldn’t have believed them.”
– Lee Rayfield, 3 November 2010
The penultimate hymn was the wonderful Brother, Sister, Let Me Serve You, which has many touching and appropriate lines. I find myself belting out “When you laugh I’ll laugh with you; I will share my joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.” Despite really being about God, I let my mind wander to the moments of joy, sorrow, and laughter that we have all shared with Richard, and the years of similar moments that Bristol’s communities will also experience with their new priest. His unique brand of ‘service with a smile’ will be well-received by the community there, but dearly missed by us back home at St Luke’s.
As the procession made their way to the back of the church on the last hymn, I realised that this was it. It was truly the end of an era. Following refreshments which were of surplus-demand, we bid our last goodbyes. “C’mon, the coach is waiting,” someone said, and that was the cue to leave.
And so as one parish’s long interregnum finishes, another’s is just beginning. We wish Richard the very best of luck, and pray for him as he starts writing this new chapter of his autobiography.
Meanwhile, if you’d like a job as the vicar, write to us at: Call Me The Reverend, The Vicarage, Norfolk Road, Maidenhead, SL6 7AX.