Church Mouse and about forty others gathered together on a Friday afternoon in Kingstone Church to welcome Herefordshire’s own answer to Flanders and Swann, Michael Tavinor. Although he now lives in Presteigne, Michael is the former Dean of Hereford Cathedral, still lives in the diocese and the County can still try to claim him! Expecting battles with rising flood waters, (there are only two ways in and out of Presteigne and they both flood), there had been some discussion about whether the event could go ahead, but in the end no swimming was necessary, a relief for a small, although intrepid, mouse.
Kingston has a new and attractively set out “cafe” area with round tables, chairs with padded seats and a kitchenette and counter. Michael’s audience were able to enjoy his humour, singing and playing while seated comfortably among friends enjoying a cup of tea and shortbread or chocolate biscuit. This worked extremely well and gave the occasion an intimate feel.
Michael, as many will know, has kept a diary for many years, a mine of quirky and amusing stories which provide a wonderful basis for a very entertaining act. These are interspersed with songs (some audience participation included), piano pieces and some items for the organ. Among the most amusing anecdotes were when he took an elderly lady out for tea. There was a certain amount of discomfiture when the lady’s knicker elastic broke and Michael had to advise complete removal of the offending piece of lingerie which then went into his pocket during the tea. Another was the occasion one Remembrance Sunday when a net of poppy petals was scheduled to be released onto the heads of those below at the end of a service. Unfortunately, something, damp perhaps, had caused the petals to stick together and when the rope was pulled, they fell to the ground as a somewhat messy, solid wodge… The announcement of Michael’s new role as Dean of Hereford, entailed a press conference and fifty chairs were set out for members of the press who, it had been thought, might be in attendance. When Michael walked in he found one journalist from the Hereford Times and a dog awaiting him.
Many of Michael’s amusing stories were directed against himself, all told in a quiet and self-deprecating manner which is very endearing to the audience. Indeed, Michael has a band of followers who might well be the nucleus of a fan club. Many who had met such notables as Lady Thatcher, Dame Barbara Cartland, Sir Roy Strong and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II might have related quite different sorts of stories. It is also unlikely that they would have the same musical ability as Michael which enabled him to turn so easily from talking to playing. We listened, amongst other items, to a piece by William Byrd, who had once been the organist at Harlington, where Michael’s father played in more recent times, and another by William Boyce, into whom Michael spent some time researching. Despite there being no trumpet stop on the organ, Boyce’s Trumpet Voluntary came across very well!
It was clear from the amount of laughter and appreciative clapping that the afternoon was a great success. Heartfelt thanks must go to Michael for his wonderful powers of entertainment, and to Anna and her helpers who laid on such welcome tea and biscuits for us.