Many in West Sussex know of the Sharpthorne Carol Party, which is not surprising as they’re currently celebrating their 93rd anniversary. The choir, who are currently booking private parties this Christmas will be raising funds for the Melanoma Fund and St Catherine’s Hospice.
Doreen Walker joined the group in the late 1940’s and tells of how it all began.
“Ron and Doris Comber, whose family were Comber and Son (builders who still trade in Sharpthorne) organised a party of carol singers each Christmas to collect donations for local good causes, by travelling around the local area on a lorry bed with a piano strapped to the back. I was in the St. Margaret’s Church choir one Sunday morning when Ron Comber came in to ask if anybody would like to sing with their carol party, as several adult members had lost their voices from tonsillitis.
He assured us we would only be singing the well-known carols, so we all agreed to go along. A few weeks before Christmas we all got together and practised at Ron’s home, fine tuning our voices and having lots of fun.”
This was the start of an annual event which has continued until the present day. Their bookings over the years have grown in popularity and are varied but always grand and eventful. From sharing their music with local families and their friends, to the stately home residences of Lords and Ladies, the choir has seen it all.
Although the choir is always well received, on one occasion they were not! Says Doreen; “One of the more unusual carol singing calls, was the night the choir tried to sing at Snegg’s Hill. As the choir drove up to the house it was well lit up on all four floors. They started to sing and it became very apparent they were not welcome, as starting with the ground floor, one by one the lights went out on each floor until the house was in complete darkness.”
After the last performance on Christmas Eve the tradition has always been to have the ‘Count-up’ from the collecting tins. Back in the 1940’s and 50’s the choir felt pleased to have collected £30-40. Now the average total is in the thousands and it all goes to local charities.
Private bookings are available in the East Grinstead or Forest Row area between the 12th and 22nd December, please email Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org.