There is no getting away from it, Christmas has arrived in Rye – the lights are up and so is the Christmas tree on the Quay and Great Expectations day is almost upon us. There are two events though that always signal the start of the holiday celebrations: the first is Rye Singers performance of the Messiah and then, on the same day, the Lamb House Players put on two performances of carols, songs and readings for Christmas.
Wine including prosecco was on offer as the audience arrived (although the general ambience made one feel more like a guest at a private house, especially as the hall at the foot of the staircase, where the seats were arranged could just seat a maximum of a tightly-packed 40 or so).
With the accompanist and narrator squeezed into the kitchen passageway (EF Benson’s fictional servant, Grosvenor, would have had a perfect vantage point) the performance began with the singers processing down on to the stairs to the carol, Once in Royal David’s City.
Interspersed with carols and songs, readings followed, mainly from the two most famous residents of the house. Henry James, who, in poignant extracts from letters home to his mother and sister in America, described Christmas in England – clearly a lonely affair when he first arrived, although one likes to think that all changed upon his arrival in Rye. And, of course, EF Benson, with the wonderfully funny tale of Miss Mapp’s Boxing Day visit to Lucia’s house (probably in Military Road) intent on acquiring, by fair means or foul, the recipe for the fabled Lobster à la Riseholme.
(Although not included in the extract, it is perhaps worth mentioning that they both ended up being swept out to sea on a table, when, following a storm, the river burst its banks, causing a flash flood through the lower town – a cautionary tale, maybe).
Like all good things, the entertainment, all to soon, had to come to an end, and it did so on a high note with a clever and beautifully-performed version of Baby, its Cold Outside after which the audience were treated to mulled wine and excellent mince pies before leaving Lamb House to find out for themselves just how cold outside it really was.
This was a very professionally produced and performed recital, sometimes amusing, sometimes thoughtful. This particular member of the audience will be back for more next year.
Photos courtesy of Patrick Rogers