I suppose I expected this to be a little village event, but my illusions were soon dispelled. The first sign was the difficulty finding somewhere to park, and then I joined the steady stream of people making their way up to Northleach church. Arriving about 20 minutes before the concert was due to start, the nave of the church was already nearly full. There were no spare seats anywhere near the front but eventually I found a space at the crossing of the centre and entrance aisles. The reason for that seat having remained vacant soon became apparent, as there was a large video camera on a tripod right in front, partially obscuring the view. However, I decided to stay put, thinking that I could lean sideways if necessary to see what was going on. The church continued to fill, with the latecomers seated in the side aisles and under the tower at the back.
At one point, a young man who looked vaguely familiar went to a door near the back of the church. A little mental computation told me that this was Greg Lake, the guitarist who appears in many of Mary-Jess’s videos. As the door opened, I caught a glimpse of Mary-Jess inside.
At about 8pm, Mary-Jess came out and made her way towards the front. She was wearing a gorgeous full length black dress with coloured swirls on the front and an intricate pattern at the top.
Miracle of miracles, as the concert started the cameraman moved his tripod to the centre of the aisle, leaving me a clear view past him down the aisle to the front.
The concert consisted of music in a variety of styles from a number of local groups and soloists, with a band that had been put together for the occasion. Liz Leaverland (Mary-Jess’s mother) sang a couple of songs and joined the backing vocals for others.
After a very moving reading depicting the plight of an African family from a widowed mother’s perspective, Mary-Jess emerged to sing the even more moving ‘Don’t Cry Alone’. Other songs were ‘Glorious’ and ‘Did I make the most of loving you’ (The Downton Abbey theme). Mary-Jess’s final solo was ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, a new arrangement with Steve Winwood at the piano and Liz providing vocal accompaniment.
After the concert, a number of us from the newly formed Mary-Jess forum gathered together while Mary-Jess spent time with various family, friends and well-wishers. Eventually, she came to us and greeted us each with a big hug. Time for a little chat and a few photos, then Mary-Jess suggested that we all adjourn to the local pub, as she was dying for a cup of tea.
Mary-Jess is so friendly and takes an interest in everyone that she meets. She also gets quite emotional at times when she catches glimpses of how much she and her music means to people.
As I stepped out of the pub after saying goodbye to Mary-Jess, the church clock was striking midnight. I felt like I was in a fairy-tale.