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In September the Mayor of Hungerford asked me if I would like to play at the Mayor’s Christmas Carol Service in December. I replied quickly with “yeah, sure I can do that” and then remembered that when performing on my own my hands are about as useful as floppy strands of overcooked spaghetti! So, I took a month to think about this and how I could help my situation…

Finally in October/November I came up with “a very silly idea” to rope 5 complete beginners in to help me perform on stage in front of the town of Hungerford. Plot twist, it actually worked!

So I organised a day where the 6 of us would get together, I’d teach them a tune, we’d arrange it and then later play it at the event. When thinking of balancing finances, my own energy, the other 5 people’s energy and concentration I realised 2 hours of non-stop learning and practice was probably the limit I had. I ambitiously told myself “yeah, sure I can do that.” Let’s just remember it was that phrase that got me into this mess!

On Sunday the 16th December, I went on a quick trip to get supplies. I explained to a lovely friend and checkout operator what I’d be up to this afternoon. She said, “Ellie I’d be absolutely pooping myself but you just love it don’t you.” Yeah, sure… I can do that! Suddenly I wasn’t feeling quite so confident.

Nevertheless, me and my five other lovely ladies all met at Hungerford Hub at 2:30 to learn Little Donkey in two hours. It went surprisingly smoothly, I’d taught them all before for 1-5 lessons so I knew what they were capable of and tried to give them parts which would help them but also I wanted them to decide arrangement ideas. After mince pies, jaffa cakes, hot chocolate and tea we’d managed to learn all of the tune and left hand. Now was the tricky bit, getting it all together with only 40 minutes left! We decided to share the left hand and tune between us, splitting into two 3’s with two people playing the tune and the other person playing the accompaniment. We practised it twice and then suddenly it was 4:30! Our time was up.

We packed all of the harps off and ran back to our homes to guzzle as much food as we could, ready for the concert to start at 6:30.

6:30 came and everyone had arrived, the church was packed! With every reading, presentation and carol my knees started shaking, counting down the songs until we were due to go up. At last it was our turn. I set everyone up with the harps and then went to explain to the audience what we’d been up to that day. If I’m honest, I can’t remember much of what I said and it probably wasn’t in English! All I could think was how proud I was of all the ladies that came to the workshop, impressed with how much they learnt but also terrified to see what would happen when the pressure was on them on stage.

I had absolutely nothing to worry about. They were absolutely incredible. In fact, I was the only one who messed up! It truly was an incredible performance from everyone.

Yeah, sure WE CAN do that!

Photos by Tony Bartlett

Photos by Neil Padgen

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