The Warrington Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols usually follows a traditional format with new and senior brethren reading a familiar selection of scripture from Genesis to the New Testament’s Saint Matthew. This year was different, as readings concentrating on the birth of the Saviour were very eloquently delivered instead by Tegwen Drinkwater, Hannah Gleave, Yvonne Potter, Patricia McIntyre, Carol Anderson and the Rev Michael Ridley.
A thoughtful interlude was introduced in the middle of the service as John McIntyre, Lee Marsh and Rob Crook settled around a table by the pulpit and enacted a scene of the three Magi reminiscing about events in their past and of a birth of ‘hard and bitter agony’ as Christ was born. This was T S Eliot’s poem ‘Journey of the Magi’. Our own three wise men delivered the lines in fine form, reproducing the poem’s gravitas and their trouble at returning to homes not yet Christian. It added another dimension to the celebration and a solemn perspective to the nativity.
In complete contrast, close following was Barry Corcoran playing a parent explaining to three children how the giving of the Magi’s gifts gave us the tradition of Christmas gift-giving. Following this was a selection of very humorous children’s letters to Santa that switched the mood from sober to joyous, when the children delivered excerpts that rang the old church with laughter.
Unchanging however, was the interspersing of the readings and performances with carols. With the accompaniment from Cadishead Public Band and Peter Blease on the church’s organ, the choir, band and the church organ combined to give a resounding rendition of the carols, all established favourites, which Sophie Barker, Kai Whalley, Sophie Gorman and the congregation joined in with gusto.
One solo carol was performed; Nicola Leather delightfully delivered ‘Gabriel’s Message’, a traditional Basque carol.
The collection during the service raised a sum of over £300 which was donated to the church. Following the service, most of the congregation assembled in the adjacent church hall for refreshments of tea, coffee, sherry, mince pies and the grand Christmas draw.
A special tribute was paid to Nicola Leather who has just taken part in what was likely to be her final appearance in the choir, prior to her move to France in 2018. John McIntyre, group secretary said: “I am privileged to thank her publicly for the assistance she has given to the Warrington Group, both in the church services and the Ecclesholme Fairs and in presenting a bouquet we all wish her well in her new adventure in Normandy.”
Prizes in the grand Christmas draw were then distributed. Andy Barton, group chairman, thanked all who took part in the service, particularly the Cadishead Band, all the readers, Rev Michael Ridley and the church officials, David Anderson for his work on the grand Christmas draw and everyone for their attendance and support. He closed the evening by offering everyone his best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
Story and pictures by Eric Miller.