Staging our Christmas Shows

Each December we host a special Christmas show featuring Len Rawle on the Wonderful Woking Wurlitzer with special guests.

Months in advance Len is working with our guests to prepare the musical program, but usually rehearsal has to be done on the day whilst the hall is being decorated and prepared by other team members, so it's not an ideal situation by any means.

As we share the Wurlitzer Hall with many other activities, we have no permanent fixtures in the room other than the organ chambers behind the roller shutters.  The organ console is wheeled out for each performance, and the room must be set for each concert. 

The Christmas shows are the most challenging as all the decorations must be hung on the day (or in a few cases the day before) and everything must be removed immediately after the last performance.  The following 11 photo's show the team at work from before 10am on Saturday 21 December 2013, and they had to be ready for 2pm when the doors opened.  Bear in mind some volunteers had also been there for several hours the day before rigging some of the festive lights, tuning the organ and not to mention making up bespoke cabling harnesses at home.

Photo below: The organ shutters have been raised, the organ console wheeled out and is being prepared and tuned by Len Rawle (out of sight).  Banners are being hung on the walls by Mike Clemence. Nick Ashton and his son Jon are busy up the ladder rigging the festive lights, Keith Reeve has the lighting mixer and spotlight in place on the lighting deck (near right corner) and assembly of our reindeer by Lorraine Joyce is evident on the stage platforms to the right.

Photo below: Some of the festive lights are tested whilst others are still going up. The stage platforms have been moved into position to the right of the console and the Christmas tree is being prepared, the projector screen has been drawn down and our orange sheeting has been hung over the equipment storage and lighting deck at the near end.

Photo below: The organ shutters have been lit with fairy lights, the stage has been dressed and the Christmas tree lit, the illuminated reindeer is in position in the far left corner near the piano which has been moved in from its storage location.  To the near left it would appear that Nick is having a "moment" as yet more lights are still being hung.

Photo below: The chairs for our all important audience are being set out, making sure we allow enough room for the bell ringers and their tables which are still to arrive.  At the far end on the right a grey screen is in place to act as a temporary store of all the boxes and other items not required during the show.

Photo below: Mike and Bill discuss something in the near ground, the video mixing rack has been hoisted into place next to the lighting deck (but just out of shot to the bottom left), more seats have been set, Len Rawle and Richard Cole are rehearsing in the far left corner, in the centre Keith is on the ladder having just installed the projector into its cradle and in the far right corner Ian Ridley prepares the roving camera with Nick.

Photo below: All the chairs are set and cabling has been tidied away. A few of the hand bell ringers have made an early appearance on the right, whilst over to the left Charley and Sue Brighton are preparing their brass instruments for the show. The crew are now using the ladder to install the video cameras and adjust the stage lighting.

Photo below: The hand bell ringers' tables are being set up in front of the audience chairs, rehearsals are taking place with Len on the organ and Charley and Sue just in front of the console, and the ladder is still in full time employment adjusting the lighting and cameras.  Judith is in the near ground about to prepare the interval refreshments and ticketing arrangements along with her grandchildren and Lorraine.

Photo below: The hand bell ringers settle in whilst rehearsals continue.

Photo below: It's all go! Nick's still up and down the ladder, Keith is testing the stage lighting whilst the bell ringers prepare, Santa's little helpers can be seen in front of the piano whilst rehearsals progress.

Photo below: Tim Willetts, musical director of the St Lawrence Chobham Hand Bell Ringers, raises his hands to signal the end of a full rehearsal involving the bells, the brass and the Wurlitzer.  This was also the last chance the lighting and video controllers had to adjust their effects.

Photo below: The audience begins to arrive for the afternoon show.  We made it!

Finally, all of this must be de-rigged at the end of the day as nothing can be left over until the following day.  This year it took 1.5 hours to complete a full de-rig and return our precious Wurlitzer to its resting place.  Needless to say, the crew slept well that "silent night"!