To cheer us up through these dark and difficult times we will leave this page here until Candlemas (2nd February 2021).
Scroll down for full programme details as well as a review of the concert and our zoom Christmas party.
Light in our darkness
Darkened church awaits the arrival of St. Lucy (Sankta Lucia)
St. Lucy and her chorus slowly walk in procession from the back of the church, as the traditional ‘Lucy Carol’ is sung. Lucy is wearing the usual candles on her head as she brings light into the church. The music (sung by the schola group) crescendos as the procession nears the front of the church.
A welcome is given by Andrew Harrison (DHLS President).
A 2nd ‘Lucy Carol’ is sung. New words have been set to music.
Words are by Malcolm Gray and music by Alan Wilson.
During this, all commence to light their own candles, as the church becomes full of blazing light.
Alan Wilson (DHL chairman) gives an introduction to the history and significance of this church.
A new poem, ‘Eulogy for Butty’s Lump, a Congo Chapel in Eastwood Town’, written in memory of the church by Malcolm Gray, is superimposed by the carol ‘We three kings of Orient are’. Read by Malcolm, accompanied by the schola group.
Alison Seaman talks about the importance of ‘Light’ in three religions: Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism.
Music in the background to include the carol ‘O come, O come Emmanuel’ and ‘The Distant Light’ by Alan Wilson (sung by Liz Rodger and the schola group).
A selection of seasonal connected readings interspersed with appropriate Christmas carols:
From ‘A Prelude’ by DH Lawrence (read by Andrew Harrison)
‘Adam lay y bounden’ composed by Peter Warlock (sung by Liz Rodger)
From ‘The Rainbow’ by DH Lawrence (read by Kate Foster)
‘Ballalullow’ composed by Peter Warlock (sung by Liz Rodger)
From ‘The Whistling of Birds’ by DH Lawrence (read by Carolyn Melbourne)
From ‘Letter from Jessie Chambers to Helen Corke, 1912’ (read by Wendy Millington)
‘Ding dong merrily on high’ – an English traditional carol arranged by Alan Wilson (sung by Liz Rodger).
Ruth Hall talks about her candlemaking, the significance of candles and the connection with DH Lawrence.
‘The Christmas Story’, taken from St. Luke‘s Gospel (read by Brenda Sumner).
Music to include ‘Bethlehem Down’ by Peter Warlock and ‘The Rocking Carol’, a Czech carol arranged by Alan Wilson.
Also to include two poems: ‘The Birth of Christ, the Shepherds View’ by Malcolm Gray (read by Alan Wilson) and ‘While shepherds watched’ by Fred Skillington (read by Jean Duckworth).
‘Gathering’ music as the Lucy procession forms to leave the building.
Reprise of the ‘St Lucy Carol’, as Lucy and her chorus exit, going out into the streets of Eastwood proclaiming the message of Hope and Peace.
The music in the church disappears into a very distant echo.
FORMAL END OF CONCERT
Final continuity studio announcement by Alan, followed by his arrangement of the carol ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ (sung by the schola group)
Artists taking part:
Readers and Speakers
Alan Wilson, Alison Seaman, Andrew Harrison, Brenda Sumner, Carolyn Melbourne, Jean Duckworth, Kate Foster, Malcolm Gray, Ruth Hall and Wendy Millington.
Liz Rodger (Soprano), Helen Fearnley (Violin), Alan Wilson (Piano and Organ) and the Schola Cantorum of Holy Trinity Church, Eltham (South London SE9).
The programme has been conceived, recorded, produced and mixed by Alan Wilson.
A PERSONAL TRIBUTE
This recording is dedicated to the memory of Paul Geeson who died this very weekend on December 12th 2014. Paul was a long standing close friend and colleague to Alan and worked as engineer and producer on many of Alan’s former CD’s. He was also responsible for the ‘midi’ inclusion in the new Kenneth Tickell organ at St. Mary-le-Bow Church London where Alan was working, alongside giving immense technical support to Alan both at QMUL University and as a freelance musician. In addition he was a very inspiring bass guitar player and an expert on jazz improvisation, collaborating musically with Alan in many of his theatrical productions.
December 13 for the Scandinavian countries is a very important day, being the feast of Saint Lucy, the bringer of light. Combined with a virtual reconstruction of the former Eastwood Congregational church (The ‘Congo Chapel’), sadly destroyed in the late 1960s, Alan Wilson has taken the imagery of ‘light in our darkness’ to lead us through a magical art inspired tour of music, poetry, local reflections and of course some wonderful seasonal writings of DH Lawrence.
All performers taking part are connected with either the DH Lawrence Society or the Haggs Farm Preservation Society. It is a one off opportunity to bring back to life this iconic building which had strong connections with both the Lawrence and Chambers families, fulfilling the obvious Sunday religious needs, but also as a centre for Eastwood’s intellectual life inspired by the incumbent the Reverend Robert Reid.
And what time now to be yearning for light in our own darkness!
This programme promises to cheer us up with both upbeat seasonal readings and reflective ambient music, bringing that glistening sparkle that we all yearn for at Christmas tide.
It will be streamed on both websites as a podcast, from the evening of Friday the 11th and will be available to download throughout the whole of that weekend. The ideal time to listen to it would be on the Saturday afternoon for that is when last year’s Christmas concert took place live in Eastwood Parish Church.
For all lovers of both Lawrence and Eastwood this festive occasion should not be missed!
The Christmas Carol Concert
We all, I’m sure, have memories of Christmas. For many of us they are Romantic—sanitized perhaps by the passage of time—a snow man with a carrot for a nose, memories conjured by Paul Simon’s “Softly Falling Silent Shroud of Snow’ or sliding down an icy slope on an old tin tray with screams of childish delight and fingers warm in wooly gloves. For some it is food..a flaming pudding and a silver sixpence, for some a tradition and having to kiss a ‘whisk’rd old aunt ‘neath mistletoe….we listened to the Queen’s speech.
The idea of Alan Wilson’s Christmas Concert was to evoke memories, very specific memories, and incorporate these with a celebration of Saint Lucia the Patron Saint of Light and the advent of the Christian Christmas.
For Alan, an Eastwood lad, the one great loss for the town came with the demolition of the Congregational church, the ‘Butty’s Lump’ as it was known. It was a more significant building than even the parish church, and for Lawrence and Jessie Chambers an important part of their early time together. The idea of the concert was to create a virtual performance within this great iconic building and in that sense it worked well as readings and recollections created a sense of the past grandeur of the building.
In any community light is significant, perhaps in a mining community more so. The miner’s lamp was his eyes in the gloom of the shafts and the seams, and there is more than one account of miners walking home across dew dressed fields into a sunrise at the end of a night shift. Light suggested hope and the potential for better things.
For a christian Advent is the celebration of the period leading up to the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, and the 13th of December is marked as Sankta Lucia (St Lucia/ St Lucy’s Day) especially in Sweden. Saint Lucia was a martyr killed for her faith in 304 A.D. December the 13th was also the Winter Solstice—the shortest day of the year on the old Julian calendar—and a pagan festival of lights in Sweden. In the service to mark the worship of the Saint Lucia a young girl in white arrives in the church adorned by a ‘crown’ of lighted candles, and candles form an integral part of the whole celebration, which in Sweden is also a festival in praise of the idea of the coming of ‘new light’, the hope of Spring.
( For a wonderful and very comprehensive account of “The Winter Solstice; the Sacred Traditions of Christmas” see a book with that title by the Folklore expert John Matthews. It is wonderfully illustrated by his wife Caitlin, and others. It also contains some wonderful traditional recipes —A 12th night cake, real Eggnog and a wassail ‘grog’ . Pub by Thorson 1998
There is also a beautiful C.D. by the choir of New College Oxford ..”Illumina; Music of Light”)
In creating this virtual carol concert Alan Wilson restored many of the memories of the great ‘Congo’ church in Eastwood and used readings by Lawrence and others to link the carols and musical items.
The real significance of the congregational church to Lawrence and Jessie Chambers is described in some detail in John Worthen’s “D.H.Lawrence ; the Early Years 1885-1912” The map shows its location and John describes in some detail the Lawrence and Chamber’s links to the chapel. John Worthen describes it as having a ‘strong intellectual tradition’ —‘traditionally’ linked to Congregationalism. The minister most closely linked through the chapel to Lawrence and Jessie Chambers was the Rev. Robert Read.
As the concert sought to convey the Chapel was very significant in the town and played an important role in the social and intellectual life at Lawrence’s time.
We were not able to share the Julbord Feast of Light ( a Swedish Feast) but enjoyed every other aspect of our ‘gathering’.
Malcolm Gray, Dec 17th 2020.
The Christmas Party
‘The past is a foreign country – they do things differently here.’ And so rewind to my first HFPS Christmas get together, Eastwood, December 2017, in those innocent days when a Christmas party meant dressing up, grabbing a bottle and leaving the house. I remember my friend Rob and I hovering in the Breach House porch in anxious anticipation to enter a place we had stood outside and gazed at so many times. And then we were in, and embraced into a warm, festive atmosphere, tables brimming with food, people crowded into every corner, chat everywhere we turned. Immediately we felt ourselves among kindred spirits. That evening ended with carols led by Alan on the piano – you can still watch it here.
And so to 2020, and as I write I realise that very little of this was lost at our zoom Christmas party, and anything missing was made up for by teaming up with the Lawrence society and being joined by members from all corners of the UK and across the world.
We had jokes, we had readings, we had humorous anecdotes, we raised a glass to Jessie Chambers and Lawrence, in fact the only thing zoom let us down on was the carol singing - Alan tried but even his best efforts failed to keep us in time or in tune. We wondered, could a zoom singalong make even King’s college choir sound bad?
Central to the evening was the quiz organised by Carolyn, a tense head to head between the two societies. Our contestants had no problems with Migganzi or Izz boowutts wuzz klaggdupp in the Nottinghamshire dialect round – maybe it was Carolyn’s authentic Eastwood accent that helped them out – even David Amos was impressed. On to the first lines of literature round and it was still as close as yakudd shekka stikkatt until finally the Lawrence society inched ahead, saved by a knowledge of Dan Brown which Tony declared came from his work as a librarian but we’re still unsure …
For me, a highlight of this wonderful party was Glenys reading her collection of Lawrence’s Christmas letters. They showed Lawrence in all his moods – loving and hating Christmas, letting his hair down or being a curmudgeon, praising the food, moaning about the company; the same contrary Lawrence, wherever he was in the world.
I’ll leave you with one of these from Christmas 1918 when the Lawrences were living at Middleton by Wirksworth. It seems fitting: ‘We played charades — the old people of 67 playing away harder than the young ones — and lit the christmas tree, and drank healths, and sang, and roared - Lord above. If only one hadn't all the while a sense that next week would be the same dreariness as before. What a good party we might have had, had we felt really free of the world.’
So, a toast: Good riddance to 2020 – you tried your best to break us but human spirit prevailed – and here’s to meeting up at The Breach House for Christmas 2021.
Kate Foster, December 2020