In December 2016, we offered two tickets to go and see the ‘On Angel Wings’ concert in London. Winner, Denise Lawrence, wrote this about her experience:
In January 2015 I decided that this was the year I was going to be positive and engaged and open to new opportunities. Among other things, I attended the Federation Conference for the first time and signed up for the blog which proved entertaining, enlightening and rewarding in all sorts of ways throughout the year. In the beginning of December, I was amazed and delighted to find that by responding to a post on the blog I had won two tickets to attend The Michael Morpurgo On Angel Wings Concert in London in support of Farms for City Children.
My friend Laura was even more excited when I asked her to be my guest. We met up in the wonderfully atmospheric Crypt restaurant under St John’s in Smith Square and shared as glass of wine before winding our way up the stone stairs to the main body of the church where the concert was to take place.
“Posh seats!” I exclaimed as we sat down six rows from the front and right in the centre of the row. Laura nudged me in the ribs, “Look who’s next to me!” she whispered. I glanced along the row to see Joanna Lumley! You couldn’t get posher than that! I had never heard Michael Morpurgo do a reading before so I had no idea what to expect. The hall was full of people of all ages, from children in school uniform to elderly people, all come to witness this remarkable performance.
Denise Lawrence, Michael Morpurgo and Laura Coates
The first notes of a trumpet announced the arrival of the singers, Voices at the Door, leading the two narrators Michael Morpurgo and Nandi Bhebhe onto the stage. That was the only instrument we were to hear that evening. I had watched the animated version of On Angel Wings the previous Christmas Eve, but that was nothing in comparison to this concert.
Nandi Bhebhe narrated the part of the Angel Gabriel with a smiling serenity that truly captured the character. She is gifted actor, singer and dancer who has worked with Michael Morpurgo before. Michael Morpurgo himself was a revelation, transporting us effortlessly to that first Christmas night. He didn’t just narrate this wonderful story, he truly became each character. We saw and heard the gnarled old shepherd, then the teasing uncles and brothers and the shy young shepherd boy wailing aloud “It’s not fair!” as the grownups got to go to Bethlehem while he had to stay with the sheep.
Of course he does go to Bethlehem, on Gabriel’s Angel Wings, while the rest of the heavenly host watch over the flock. He does get to see the baby and give him a gift, his own shepherd’s crook, before flying back to the hillside, with the other shepherds none the wiser.
I find it difficult to describe the impact of the a capella singers; Voices at the Door are amazing. They sang traditional carols that I was not familiar with, but in a way which reminded me of medieval choral singing. One I did recognise, the wonderful French carol Il est né le divin enfant, the others were carols traditional to their native Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Michael Morpurgo even had us all joining in with the carols at the end, ensuring that we all left smiling, feeling a part of this wonderful experience.
Laura with Nandi Bhebhe
Laura is a great fan of Nandi Bhebhe, having seen her work in Cornwall, so we were both delighted to meet her and Michael Morpurgo after the performance, thanks to the lovely Philippa Perry who was looking after all the artistes and who organised the tickets for us. We even got to speak to Joanna Lumley who was as gracious in person as on screen.
Denise with Philippa Perry
It was a magical start to the Christmas season and I’m so grateful to Philippa Perry, and the Federation, for providing the opportunity to attend this remarkable event – Thank you so much!
This is a guest post by Denise Lawrence.