There had been no rain for ages then, in the week leading up to the celebratory weekend, it came. Admittedly in fits and starts but enough to warrant concern over parking in Alison’s paddock and the delivery of the heavy equipment – the marquee and portaloos. Alex kindly came to the rescue with some plastic trackway that could be laid in the gateways where vehicles were most likely to get bogged. Talking of bogs, the portaloos arrived a day early but no matter, best to get the essentials nailed! Then the excellent marquee providers, Hampshire Party Marquees, turned up with the marquee saying “Sorry, we don’t have a 9 x 12 metre sized marquee so we’ve given you a 12 x 12 metre one: no extra charge.” As it turned out that was just as well since the Friends Village Lunch bookings were strong and the extra space was handy.
The Vox Cantab concert on the Saturday evening was attended by an appreciative audience of 85 who thoroughly enjoyed the singing from this exceptionally talented group. The group’s members had not seen each other, certainly not sung together for over 18 months yet, with intensive rehearsing on Saturday morning and afternoon, they were pitch perfect and performed exquisitely.
They sang a ‘mixed bag’, as they called it: mostly sacred music in the first half followed by a selection of songs from musicals and so forth in the second half. It was especially good that their patron, the renowned composer and conductor, Jonathan Willcocks who lives in nearby Compton, was in the audience. Our heartfelt thanks go to Louisa Denby and her magnificent group of singers for giving us such a marvellous and memorable evening.
The next morning, Sunday, we held the Anniversary Eucharist service for which the church was again packed. Since the church was originally built 150 years ago by the forebears of the Talbot-Ponsonbys it was entirely fitting that the service be conducted by the Reverend Prebendary Andrew Talbot-Ponsonby. His evident pleasure in so doing added warmth to the proceedings and we owe him our sincere thanks for making the service so special. The singing had to have been about the best you could ever hope to hear in a rural parish church! The East Meon and Langrish choir sat in the back pews and belted out the hymns as well as singing an anthem on their own and the Vox Cantab singers, arrayed in the choir stalls, sang motets and other pieces as well as contributing to the hymn singing. Such was the volume and splendour of the singing that even the old croakers like me were encouraged to abandon our usual low volume mumbling and sing lustily: the noise was deafening! It was a thoroughly cheerful and uplifted congregation that enjoyed a glass of fizz at the back of the church after the service before going down to join the Friends Village Lunch.
The PCC had decided early on that the weekend was to be about celebrating the 150th anniversary of the consecration of our church and was not a ‘fund-raiser’. We decided to bear the cost of the marquee, portaloos and some other expenses to facilitate the holding of the Village Lunch on the field adjacent to the churchyard because we wanted to show off the church and the churchyard improvements to the village. Despite these costs, the generosity of the concert audience and the congregation at the Sunday service meant that we were not out of pocket and the Friends’ wonderful donation to the church from the lunch was icing on the cake.
Many villagers put in a lot of time and effort to make the weekend a success. I cannot name them all but special thanks to Richard Jordan for allowing us to use his field, to Marjorie Day for allowing access through her drive, to Alison Meggeson for turning her paddock into a car park and to the Friends for agreeing to hold their lunch a bit inconveniently in a field and for their superb donation after the event.