In the evening, a short drive through light falling snow, to St. Peter’s church, in the village of Tandridge in East Surrey. Tandridge is tucked away on a slope of the North Downs that tilts away from the main road.
There’s a hidden, lost world up here, almost – a land that the 21st century forgot.
Arriving at the churchyard, we’re greeted at the Lych Gate. It’s a winter wonderland. There is a dusting of late snow like icing sugar on a cake, and the ancient yew tree is decorated with fairy lights. Somewhere in the background, one of those little portable generators is grumbling away. Under a gazebo near the church door, some rather good curry is served, prepared by a local restaurant. Here, tonight, in this place, old England and modern 2lst Century England meet in agreement and in harmony.
Inside, there is beer available, and we are at liberty to sit eating our curry in these old wooden pews. Modern electronic concert lighting brings a magical atmosphere to this medieval building. The opening act is the Rector’s own band, The Effras. Encouraging, uplifting, human. Songs, as frontman Revd. Andrew Rumsey notes, about seaside towns, rural churchyards and… Sarf Landan. Here a song about couples canoodling “underneath the angel”, with a name-check for Pernod and black. Or, a song about “Some houses in Croydon”, or my personal favourite, “Penge in bloom”.
Kathryn Williams had the clearest, sweetest voice. She was engagingly nervous and human. At one point she left the stage to fetch some sweets to give to some of the children at the front. She seemed very vulnerable, revealing much of herself in her playing and her stories, such as her candid anecdote of emotional collapse in “Underground”. I was mightily blessed by her songs, her performance, her openness. She had some cool sampling and looping stuff that enabled her to double and triple her voice, and back herself on vocals, and her guitar playing was a delight.
All in all, as the Rector said the following morning, a “transformative” evening. No less than the truth.