Report by Janine Pulford
Attended by Angus Campbell, the Lord-Lieutenant for Dorset and guest celebrity Michael Medwin OBE, a moving concert that combined traditional variety and remembrance took place at the Hub in Verwood on 2 November.
Variety Remembrance led the audience on a journey through the last 100 years to commemorate those who gave their lives for our freedom. It was especially poignant because as well as saluting the centenary of World War 1, it also recognized the sacrifice of Malta, and marked the end of Britain’s 13-year war in Afghanistan.
The first half the concert opened with AK Dancers wearing eye-catching polka dot costumes. The youngsters performed a lively routine to the 1958 hit ‘Stupid Cupid.’
With brave repartee, the Master of Ceremonies Dave Fitzgerald introduced the rest of the acts beginning with Scarlet Swing whose harmonies set feet tapping to ‘Bugle Boy’ and ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.
The MC’s talents were further showcased when he sang ‘That’s Life’ a tribute to Frank Sinatra, before introducing Catherine Gray who gave a strong performance of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Don’t Play That Song.’
A spellbinding routine by Yetminster Irish Dancers was applauded loudly before more tribute songs flowed to Dame Vera Lynn (Samantha Stevens), Whitney Houston (Catherine Gray), Judy Garland (Lydia Palmer) and Etta James (17-year-old Lauren Fitzgerald).
Comedy came with a hilarious performance of ‘If I Were Not Upon The Stage’ by Ferndown Phoenix Musical Society.
A mesmerizing dance routine followed by the Andrea Knowles Dance Academy’s Copa Girls swathed in blue and white feathers. The tempo changed with a stunning tribute to Pavarotti of ‘Nessun Dorma’ by Heidi Redsell.
After a curtain call, the entire cast sang ‘We’ll Meet Again’ led by Evelyn Walsh.
In the interval Leader of Dorset County Council, Cllr Spencer Flower said said that the organisers had done an absolutely fantastic job and added, “I congratulate everybody involved for making it such a lovely afternoon.”
Sylvia Evans from Verwood said, “The children were wonderful and the Irish dancers very good. I am a war baby born in 1939 and the show has been lovely.”
Mother and daughter Sonia Maylin and Kerry Stopa added, “We are enjoying the concert. It is a nice way to remember those who have died for their service to the country.”
Following the break, the Remembrance Concert began with the marching in of the Colour Guard. ‘Amazing Grace’ sung by Heidi Redsell allowed pupils from Emmanuel Middle School to showcase their singing skills.
Poetry, readings and songs were seamlessly sewn together by the presiding minister the Rev’d Adrian Thomas who led prayers and hymns.
Warren Brown performed his own song, ‘I Am Here With You’ which is available on CD.
Gurkha soldiers presented a sword in remembrance of the Unknown Warrior before the Exhortation by Sarah Byrne.
‘Bring Him Home’ sung by Heidi Redsell included a backdrop detailing a roll of honour of those in Verwood, Three Legged Cross and Woodlands who gave their lives during the First and Second World Wars whilst fighting for their country. For the more recent conflict in Afghanistan, the roll bore a single name, PJ Allen.
A poignant salute was given to Rifleman Phil Allen, killed in Afghanistan in 2009. In the audience were his mother Karen Charman-Allen, her partner Amin Woldeoktter, Natasha Charman (his sister) and Miss Katrina Pharaoh (his fiancée). Karen received a bouquet of flowers and an emotional hug from Cllr Toni Coombs.
The remembrance service also included a Salute to Malta by David Andrews of the George Cross Association who was accompanied on stage by a 94-year-old veteran Charles Grant who served on HMS Nelson during the Seige of Malta.
Churchill impersonator Derek Herbert gave his realistic Battle of Britain speech and this was followed with ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, ‘Rule Britannia’ and a lot of flag waving.
The Mayor of Verwood Cllr Mrs Pat Morrow thanked everyone involved in the concert on behalf of the people in Verwood and said the remembrance service was particularly poignant for her because she lived in Northern Ireland during the conflict there. “I would like to say a thank you to all the armed forces for what they did to protect me and my family.”
Guest celebrity Michael Medwin OBE presented bouquets and the Lord-Lieutenant for Dorset, Angus Campbell was invited on stage by the Minister to light the flame of peace.
After the event Angus Campbell said: “It was a wonderful and very original memorial service and a tremendous success for community spirit in Verwood and of course in the wider Dorset.”
And Karen Charman-Allen added, “What a remembrance. A fantastic tribute. It was an honour to be here and to be part of it.”
Produced and directed by Warren Brown, Variety Remembrance included some of the best amateur and professional entertainers in the area as well as bringing together the various armed and other services for a truly memorable event. Even the sound glitches and a stubborn film screen paled into insignificance because the show was so professionally brought together.
Warren is looking for a larger theatre next year so that more of the Dorset community can take part.
Two raffle were held, one for cakes donated by Marie Turner from Ferndown Red Cross, pictured here (right) with Alison Davis (left).
Proceeds will be shared between Help4Heroes, The Jon Egging Trust and the Hub.