2019 is going to be a very exciting year as we are going to be the major fundraisers for a fantastic transformational lighting project for Thaxted Church. The existing lighting has served us well but it now needs to be replaced and updated. This gives us an opportunity to highlight the outstanding architectural features of the church as well as lighting church services and the many community events that are held in the church. The lighting plan, which has been developed by the PCC in conjunction with a firm specialising in church lighting, is environmentally friendly and bat friendly. Sufficient funds have already been raised by the Friends of Thaxted Church to commence the project this year, and our fund-raising focus will remain on the lighting project until the work is completed. Your support had been invaluable in taking us this far so a huge ‘thank you’ for making this possible.
In 2018, the Friends of Thaxted Church raised a grand total of £14,270 for the preservation and development of a Thaxted Church. As it was our first full year of fund raising from a small, but growing, membership base, this was a great achievement.
The year started with the Friends of Thaxted Church Launch in March. This was well attended and enabled us to recruit our first tranche of new members. Guests were invited to have a guided tour of the church whilst enjoying a glass of wine and some rather special FOTC canapés.
In May we launched the Jupiter Project. The Friends’ Working Party have produced a short film to celebrate all that is wonderful about Thaxted. This features the church, the village and its people, woven together by the music of ‘Jupiter’ from Holst’s Planet Suite and the hymn ‘I vow to thee, my country’. It has been professionally filmed and edited and captures that quintessential English summer’s day that lives in all our memories.
Our film ‘Thaxted, I vow to thee ...’ is available to buy on DVD from Thaxted Tourist Information Centre in Town Street or from The Laundry Room in Thaxted. It can also be downloaded from iTunes, Amazon and Google play, links are available on the Home Page of www.friendsofthaxtedchurch.com under ‘Recent News’.
As always, we supported the Morris Weekend with our FOTC Tearoom in the church, serving cream teas. The talented bakers of Thaxted gave their unstinted support by baking a veritable mountain of scones and cakes which were much enjoyed by the many visitors who flock to Thaxted during Morris Weekend. This event also gave us the opportunity to show our DVD to a much wider audience.
In June, we joined forces with Saffron Screen and had a Pop-Up film night in the Church Hall, showing ‘The Greatest Showman’. This brought together people of all ages and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Later on in June the Friends held a garden party at Father Jacks, which used to be the old vicarage, for the members of the PCC and volunteers who had helped with our various fundraising events. It was a glorious day and a great occasion to bring everybody together.
During the Thaxted Festival we ran the Friends‘ Festival Bar, which has now become quite a feature of the Festival, allowing concert-goers to enjoy pre-concert and interval drinks on the grass at the front of the church in the evening sun. We can’t always guarantee the sun, of course, though this year it shone every day and was great for sales! The Festival Bar is run by a band of volunteers without whose loyal support, in all weathers, it could not possibly function.
We entered unchartered waters with our ‘Opera a Tavola’ in August. We were lucky enough to have local singer, Flora Birkbeck, accompanied by Quintus Benziger, who provided a stunning programme of operatic arias, classical songs and popular show tunes in the church. She even swept members of the audience off their feet when she danced with them while singing one of her lighter numbers. In between musical sets there was a three course meal provided by Quintessential Catering, who performed a gastronomic miracle on what must have been one of the hottest nights of the year. An auction was held in the interval, with lots generously donated by local businesses, which proved to be a great money-raiser. The church looked stunning decorated with beautiful flower arrangements, candles and balloons, and it was a truly memorable evening.
The next event was our much awaited ‘Planets’ concert performed by The Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra. This was the centenary of the first performance of The Planet Suite, much of which was written by Gustav Holst when he lived in Thaxted and acted as organist and choirmaster at the church. Holst is one of Thaxted’s most famous residents and he and his musical circle, which included Ralph Vaughan Williams, were the inspiration for our Thaxted Festival. Vaughan Williams’ much-loved ‘The Lark Ascending’ also featured in the programme, beautifully performed by Jake Walker. The atmosphere in the church, which was packed, was amazing, and Saffron Walden Orchestra’s stirring performance of The Planet Suite was greeted with great enthusiasm, by the Thaxted audience. In fact, the concert was a complete sell-out and talked about for days afterwards.
We finished the year with a wonderful traditional carol service in the church, organised by the Friends of Thaxted Church. The New Thaxted Singers led the congregational singing and the lessons were read by representatives of different local groups and churches. The church was full and the collection raised £886 which was donated to the Saffron Walden Salvation Army. This was the second year of the FOTC Carol Service and will now become an annual event.
We are hoping to put the following events on in 2019.
Opera Evening, Friday, 26th April. This will feature ‘Opera Offstage’, a quartet of young singers, including Flora Birkbeck, who will perform a variety of well-known operatic extracts. It will be held in the church in an informal, cafe style setting with Cicchetti dishes (similar to tapas, only Italian) served between musical sets. Booking details will be available in February.
Friends’ Spring Lecture - we are hoping that this will become an annual event for the Friends of Thaxted Church. This year’s date and subject to be confirmed.
FOTC Tea Room (Morris weekend - 31stMay - 1stJune)
Open Gardens (Sunday, 23rdJune)
Friends’ Festival Bar (every weekend of the Thaxted Festival – 21stJune – 14thJuly)
Clubs and Societies Fair with Quiz Challenge (September)
Prom concert with Saffron Walden Symphony Orchestra ( October)
Christmas Carol Service - Sunday, 15th December
We are also planning to produce a Friends’ calendar using the many beautiful photos taken by Thaxted residents. There will be a competition to choose the very best images and possibly an exhibition of the photographs.