Raising funds and spirits
“This” said one of the audience thoughtfully, “must be the first time in five hundred years that music has been played this end of the church”.
That was a thought to reflect on as the last notes died away in the sunset, the chairs and cushions and picnics were gathered up, and the nimble teenagers hopped down from their stony perches in the windows.
It was a great moment when the enterprising PCC got a grant from Historic England to restore the ruins - that is, to make them safe to wander in, as I remembered doing as a child at Walberswick School. And the hope always was that without degrading their peace and quiet, as an oasis of reflection and recollection on the edge of our village, they could be the setting for occasional modest arts events. It feels like a good acknowledgment of the past, the time of the church’s grandeur before the 1690 demolition and modest rebuilding, simply to care for its old stones, and gather amid them again to send music soaring up: up to the evening sky through what was once a medieval roof …
Now, with the work finished, here was the first event, a tentative, locally-organized concert for a summer evening, in aid of the church by Denis King, who lives only a hundred metres down the road, brought along his keyboard and recruited his old friend and favourite bass player Dave Olney (who has played with everyone from Tommy Steele to Cleo Laine, and graced both the Palladium stage and the Archers sig tune). And not least, the starry soprano Sarah Eyden, who has performed in the Carnegie Hall and at the Proms.
It was lyrical music they gave us, thoughtful and gently nostalgically romantic. It suited the mood of the old ruins picked out, with growing splendour during the hour, by the golden evening light. Songs from Kern, Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe: and not least by Denis himself - his music with Dick Vosburgh’s lyrics in “The Joke’s on me”, Don Black’s in “Something you learn to live with”, and several others. His “Love is in the Room”, familiar from TV, now becomes the title of an album with DK and Sarah. But hey, we saw them live, and that was special…
It was mellow and melodious, with a dying sunset glow over it, the still air cooling through the hour. Over 180 people came, some from up the Street or over the river, some like us from Church Lane and the Common, cutting through the peaceful graveyard and through the far arches. It raised some £600 for St Andrew’s. Raised our spirits too: the last treat of another Walberswick summer.