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A special afternoon to mark the Minehead Group's 21st birthday

Choir and orchestra in a church
Rehearsing the Cantata © S Mew

‘A very special afternoon’ was the parting comment of an audience member after the Minehead Amnesty Group’s afternoon concert and tea on Saturday 24 June. The occasion was a performance of the Amnesty Cantata composed by Emily Feldberg, of Carhampton, and first performed in 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Amnesty International. Emily offered to revive the Cantata to mark the 21st birthday of the Minehead Amnesty Group and the performance was timed to coincide with Refugee Week. The event started with the lighting of the Amnesty candle by Chris and Christina Lawson who had started the group in 2002. The candle is an important symbol for Amnesty members and it reminds us of an ancient Chinese proverb ‘better light a candle than curse the darkness’. The Cantata was performed by singers and orchestral players from across West Somerset, and it was interspersed with readings by Amnesty members. These readings linked with the words of the Cantata and quoted prisoners of conscience who had thanked those writing letters on their behalf. Letters and solidarity messages give hope to those who are in prison without trial, who are tortured or face the death penalty. As the Cantata says: ‘sent by a stranger, letters are noted, letters are seen, they show the world is watching, they show concern is real’. Chris Lawson described the Cantata as ‘a powerful piece - powerful in both words and music’. After the concert everyone enjoyed socialising over tea and birthday cake, and many signed letters to the UK and Indian Governments, and solidarity cards to political prisoners in India. Members of the Minehead Group are very grateful to Emily, the choir and orchestra for the music, to members of St Andrew’s church for helping with the venue arrangements and to the audience for their generous donations amounting to over £400. 

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