The aptly-named Hope 2008 pantomime, which took place on Saturday night at St. Paul's Church, Kersal, Salford
was what a good pantomime should be all about - slapstick, carols, children, men dressed as women and joy. The highlight for me was Alan Saunders of The Message Trust playing part of Mozart's Horn Concerto on a garden hose - absolutely brilliant!
The next day, the same Alan and others performed at the Salford Symphony Orchestra Family Concert in the beautiful and acoustically excellent Peel Hall at Salford University.
I arrived just in time for rehearsals and was able to act as page-turner for Daniel Chappell, a local young man who is studying piano at Chetham's School of Music.
After his rendition of a Haydn piano concerto, I handed Daniel a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the orchestra, as he was given a standing ovation by the enthusiastic audience.
The Grove Singers also entertained with the fantastic carols, O Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels Sing, accompanied by the orchestra. They also sang a number of welcome and freedom songs from Africa, specifically Zimbabwe and the Congo. Sheer magic!
Barrie, our conductor, made a point of welcoming the Jewish members of the audience and saying it would be perfectly OK if they preferred not to join in carols, but that their presence was a good thing in any case. He also stated that the kids in the audience could make as much noise as they wanted, and no-one would mind.
At the end of the concert, the children were invited to come onto the stage to help the percussionists in the orchestra's rendition of Sleigh Ride:
The whole event was amazing, especially as old friends from Liverpool had driven over especially for the occasion. However, by now it was after 7.00 pm and I had to be home to host the second meeting in our series of interfaith dialogues.
People came from all over the Greater Manchester and Cheshire areas as we discussed the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and the fact that the very first phrase 'In the beginning' may not actually mean that at all. For the very first letter, the bet, can mean 'by means of', 'through' and the word 'the beginning' can mean 'the beginning of'.
Two of our participants are Christian clergy and they said that the next stage in the evolution of religious communication would be the possibility of conveying what had gone on that evening - a free discussion of many possible interpretations of the text, using a variety of translations and interpretations from various traditions - to the people in the pew. Would they be able to accept that the Bible is open to various interpretations and still retain faith?
Maybe this is the way that religion will evolve in future and if our meetings can be but a tiny pebble in the ocean of Torah study, we have much to be grateful for.
As well as living in Salford where - it seems - people have retained their tolerance and have learned the secret of living in harmony together.