The 2009 Festival opened with a performance by Nicodemus Merriweather, a jobbing actor and contemporary of Shakespeare who gave a fascinating insight into Shakespeare's life, style of working, and modesty. One of the audience said "I will never forget the Shakespeare journey" , while a visiting American Professor of theatre studies thought it a "thrilling presentation" and an approach to the life of Shakespeare he had never seen before.
Saturday morning of 27 June witnessed Tim Doe's spectacular Soap Box Challenge Run. This year the entries had trebled and the range of machines made it more like a veteran car race. Anyone interested in cars should have been there. Brilliantly organised, with some cut-throat competition, this is an event which will grow and grow as its reputation spreads throughout the county. In spite of rumours Bernie Ecclestone was not there.
The rehearsal for a Come-and Sing "Messiah" was held on the afternoon of Saturday 27 June. Thirty disparate singers were brought together and in a couple of hours were hammered (or was it coaxed) into magnificent shape by Ian de Massini. The choir loved it, the early evening audience loved it, and Ian was in his element, conducting the choir, playing the harpsichord, directing the orchestra, and producing a wonderful rendition from his "eunuch flute" (he couldn't afford a trumpeter). On Sunday afternoon there was a Twenty20 Cricket Match against Swaffham Bulbeck. What a wonderful game. Bulbeck won in the last over with four balls to spare. Read all about it elsewhere in the Crier but the outstanding feature was the joyous atmosphere with the vociferous crowd cheering and sledging with the greatest humour. Almost certainly cricket will join the annual Boxing Day Hockey Match as a regular inter-village fixture and will occur on the Sunday nearest to June 26.
On the evening of the Sunday was held the big music event, with Cambridge Voices singing in a Maryloo Concert in aid of toilet facilities to be installed in St Mary's Church. The first half was held in the acoustically glorious St Cyriac's and concentrated on music in honour of Mary, the Mother of Christ. After an interval everyone moved to St Mary's where Ian de Massini's mix of mischief and seriousness was displayed. He introduced the selection of Handel's "commodious" pieces with the aid of a bass drum struck every time there was a saucy reference. And these were interspersed with the most beautiful music from Gabriel Faure's Missa Brevis. As well as the wonderful Cambridge Voices the concert displayed the sheer brilliance of Ian -as a musician, as a composer/ arranger, as a teacher, as the provider of the most full and interesting programme notes, and as an illustrator of the sheer joy and power to be found in music. Thus ended the first weekend.
The second weekend opened on Friday 3 July with the Preview of the Art Exhibition. Murray's semi-final delayed the arrival of some to view the "superb array of pictures" which showed off the light and space offered by St. Cyriac's. Of especial interest also, to celebrate the 200 years since the present church was built, was the historical exhibition illustrating the history of the church, its architecture and the people involved in its creation.
In the evening Ian de Massini, on a Boston Grand, gave a sparkling performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations in candlelight. It may not be the most sophisticated musical criticism but "magic" , "pure magic" , were the only words on everyone's lips when leaving. On the following two days Ian gave informal piano recitals which, including French Impressionist Music by Duruflé, Messiaen and Eric Satie, explored the full range of the Boston Grand, of Ian's skill, and of the acoustics of St. Cyriac's.
The School Fête was its usual day of fun and success. On Saturday evening Rex Walford and Gabrielle Bell entertained in the Village Hall. Even though their reputation goes before them, one is never sure what to expect if you've never seen them before.
They were superb and did take us through the history of the British and American musical with Rex as a brilliant raconteur. The range of information was amazing. Wittgenstein, for example, rushing off after his lectures to see his favourite film, That Night in Rio, with Carmen Miranda singing "I like you very much" -a number which Gabrielle then performed to perfection, using the most handsome man in the audience as a foil. On a more serious note we learned that during the Great Depression all the shows and songs were upbeat, joyful and hopeful -apart from two songs. One was "Buddy, can you spare a dime" and the other, of which Gabrielle gave a most poignant rendering, was "Darn that dream" .
And so we came to the end of the Festival. What more fitting conclusion to this celebration of 200 years of St Cyriac's than Compline in Plainchant. This most peaceful of services was conducted by Roy Tricker, the very first Churches Conservation Trust officer involved with the Festival. There had been a brief rehearsal for Plainchant before the service during which those attending came as close as they are ever likely to become a Cistercian monk. Over thirty people enjoyed the experience in this beautiful simple church.