A letter from the vicarage

I did two full-length concert performances recently, the first I had done for 12 years.

The first came about because of a fundraising initiative at St.Giles. In the spring of 2018, the treasurer of St.Giles handed out 65 envelopes to regular worshippers at the church. Each envelope contained a ten pound note. The challenge to each person was to use their time, talent and skill to grow the ten pounds into a larger sum for church funds. Some people hosted dinners, some grew vegetables, some made jam or chutney, one made a quiz sheet. The obvious thing for me to do was to perform.

The last concert I had done was in 2006. I knew that it would take a lot of effort to get 90 minutes of material up to performance standard; playing guitar is like running a marathon, you need to build up strength and stamina over a period of weeks.

We chose August 22nd for the concert as August is a quieter month for me. We decided to build the evening around a meal at the vicarage. We worked out that we could get 30 chairs into my lounge. A team of people worked on the food. The basic plan for the evening was for a five course ‘meal’. To start, drinks as people arrived. The ‘second course’ was 45 minutes of ‘sensible’ music (good protestant carbohydrate). Then we had main course, a range of hot dishes. This was followed by 45 minutes of satire (the bitter before the sweet). The fifth and final course was dessert. We charged twenty pounds per ticket. The event made £680 for St.Giles church, taking the profit for the talents fundraiser to over £2,000. The £680 was in part owing to the generosity of the catering team who did not claim any expenses. In addition, four people who could not attend bought tickets (or as one person put it “Paid money so as not to have to listen to me sing”.) The evening was marked by a party atmosphere, and many people stayed late, enjoying drinks and conversation. There was only one tiny dark cloud. One lady complained that from her seat she could only see my hand, boxed in as I was between a music stand and the PA system. She could not see my face! I was mortified. If only we had realised this before the concert; we could have charged extra for that seat.

Having spent so much time preparing, it made sense to do a concert for St.Thomas too. I would not have time to practice between October and December, so it was going to have to be September or not at all. The historic pipe-organ at St.Thomas needs a major overhaul, and the bill will come to £18,000. So it was decided to launch the organ appeal with an evening of guitar music in church. We chose September 13th. So, no meal this time, and the ticket price was set at £10 a head. This was  a bigger venue, but we only a couple of weeks to organise and promote it. In the event, the evening raised £625.

At both concerts I was touched by the support given from across the diocese. Many churches advertised the event, and people came from far and wide. I enjoyed good support from church members at St.Giles and St.Thomas who gave their time most generously to make the concerts a success. Some people who came to the first concert came again to the second bringing family and friends. And both concerts proved to be good social gatherings; it was good to see people enjoying each others company.

It was exhausting and time consuming, for me and the teams. Will I do it again? Maybe in another seven years.





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