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Candlelight Christmas Songs & Stories Unite Sutton in a Creative Collaboration

Last Sunday, Christ Church Sutton was home to a wonderful fariytale of music, culture and lights. All of us from the Creative Heritage team are still incredibly touched by the magic all performers, volunteers and guests created. The event was part of the larger project Sutton Community Unity, sponsoder by Community Action Sutton.



photographer: Alex Valev


The enchantment began in full darkness, pierced only by the warm light of 100 candles, surrounding the stage. There they were - 5 European nations, each singing a verse of Silent Night in their own language, each holding their country flag.


The lovely children and adults from Kingswood Surrey Music School, who represented England, opened up the programme and performed for us 3 all-time favourite English Christmas carols - Away in a Manger, Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. They were all beautifully accompanied on the piano by the school's music director Emma Clark.





The audience joined for a short imprimptu a capella singing of the traditional and extremely powerful God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. The hosts then took us to France, where we found out they have 13 desserts on Christmas Eve and big elaborate dinners. Interestingly, we also learned instead of hanging stockings near the fireplace, children leave their shoes in front of it, hoping Santa will fill them with gifts.


La Petite Ecole ALTétude sang Grand Saint Nicolas, which put everyone in a jolly mood and they encouraged them with loud claps on the beat. The School's director Myriam Gelling then read us a traditional French story, often told to children at Christmas.





Before we knew it, our journey led us to a more central spot in Europe. No, not Germany. However, we did mention that the tradition of having a Christmas tree comes from there and the original version of our opening element - Silent Night was written in German. "Ciao, signora!", we heard from the back.


A sweet young lady was asking if it was time for panettone yet. And one of the hosts, as confused as she looked, was certainly in the mood for some of that heavenly sweet treat, coming straight from the heart of Italy. The young lady then shared with us some really interesting Italian Christmas traditions. She mentioned the tombola, the nativity display, the traditional dinner on Christmas Eve and many others. Then the stage joined her amazing friends from an Italian volunteer group in Sutton, led by Sara Strafino. They sang for us Tu Scendi dalle Stelle and the Italian version of Santa Claus is Coming To Town.





Just the perfect ending of the first part of our magical music trip around Europe!


During the 20-minute break, the audience was really busy. Children were working hard on their Pass Cards. Those were little cards we gave to each child at the entrance with pictures of different traditions and the 5 countries featured in the concert programme. The children had to pay very close attention to what was happening on stage and then connect the tradition to the country it comes from. This was Santa's condition they had to fulfill if they wanted to get the special gifts he sent to them all the way from the North Pole.





Adults indulged in some of our free festive refreshments - mince pie, Christmas tea, coffee and biscuits. Some decided to go fully into the spirit of the season and savoured mulled wine, hot chocolate with marshmallows, and our very special Mommy Hot Choc!



photographer: Alex Valev

Young and old then took to our Wish Wall - a full testament of the true meaning of Christmas. We asked our guests to write a wish that cannot be bought with money or found in the shops and the messages we read in the end were nothing short of inspiring, heartwarming and reasuring the humanity in Sutton is still very much alive and strong.





As every one was mingling, browsing through the artisan market or reading a story in the quiet area, two new hosts took the stage. (The old ones must have been too busy stuffing their faces with panettone and other treats.) It was time for the second part of our cultural journey to begin.



photographer: Alex Valev


We were magically caried to Ukraine, where traditions are a huge part of people's culture and everyday life. The children from Ukrainian School in Sutton, led by Elena Smolenskaya, shared with us some customs, got the audience on their feet with an energetic dance and sang two traditional Ukrainian songs.





As we were in Eastern Europe already, we slightly moved south. The final stop of the night - Bulgaria. A country where traditions are kept for over a millennia. Bulgarian Folklore Choir "Maghiya" told us Christmas carolling is embeded in the culture and it has its own unique spin. Traditionally done by only men, it has a deeper spiritual meaning than singing alone. Each song the traditional carollers sing is dedicated to a family member of the home they visit. The children then sang 5 of these songs and sent us off for a healthy, prosperous and happy new year.





The host asked for 10 seconds of silence. A time when everyone could think of the happiest thoughts they possibly could. 10 seconds of the most positivity we could send into the universe. And as everyone bowed their head and closed their eyes, the church was once again adorned by the beautiful sounds of Hallelujah. The closing element of the night got all performers back on stage again for one massive push of magnificent energy of unity, love and acceptance.





It's how our Christmas tale ended, but we are just in the beginning of the adventurous, magical book of Creative Heritage!



photographer: Alex Valev



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