Annual Banquet (Ladies Banquet): Merchant Taylors' Hall

Monday 24th October 2016

Arriving at the magnificent Merchant Taylors' Hall sharp at 5pm to supervise the last details with the Learned Clerks, Beadle and Musicians, we errected a new portable stand for the re-discovered Livery Arms to hang from - it proved to be a great success and was placed behind the Master's chair for the evening. We were more or less ready for Phil the Photographer to take a few snaps of me with the Wardens and partners before the Mistress and self got into the welcoming line at 6.30pm and everyone who'd arrived early (thank you!) was exited and returned to their fizz in as short an order as possible. We were kept busy and with the arrival of the Cuban Ambassador and her husband, we were ready and everyone took to their seats. I chose this hall for three reasons: The lovely courtyard (now with a temporary partial glazing); the capacious size so one doesn't feel cramped, and best of all the splendid organ - the only livery hall to retain one. I'd found Peter Holder , a sub-organist from St. Paul's Cathedral thanks to IPM Chris Allens' contacts and he was flawless. Breaking with the usual, we came in to the glorious 'Mohrentanz' by Tylman Susato and, once behind our chairs the Beadle rang (yes rang) for grace using the bell from Queen Victoria's Royal Yacht (Victoria & Albert). The Chaplain then gave an excellent grace which I record here:

Whene’re I’m called a grace to type

I worry lest the punters gripe

And afterwards will take a swipe

And start to email or to Skype.

But no, a grace is never hype

Thanks be to God, the time is ripe,

For food and Loving Cups to wipe

And if you think this grace is tripe

And seems to be a prototype

At least the lines all rhyme with pipe!


And with that, we tucked in. The in house caterers had excelled themselves and we were favoured with blue cheese souffle, followed by a generous bit of pheasant (with two bits of lead shot for me!) and a lovely trio of fruity desserts, washed down with Australian white and red, and a nice chilled dessert. That done, sung grace was accompanied by Peter of course and then we had a Loving Cup - this is always popular and to encourge us, Peter played background music of Waltons 'Popular Song' and then 'In Party Mood' which some will recognise from the old 'Housewives Choice' BBC programme. Following this had the Loyal Toast and sang the National Anthem. Now it was time for the Smoking Cap ceremony - naturally I offered our Principal Guest Roger Royle (much to his surprise!) and Her Excellency a pinch of snuff which they sportingly took and passed the mulls on down the branches. We then had a ten minute comfort break - this goes against some city traditions, but I think it's a sensible interlude and, needless to say, some additional comfort was found in the smoking area too.. On our return, 3rd Warden, Andrew Golding, ably introduced our guests and we toasted their health. The response from the Reverand Cannon Roger Royle was amusingly irreverand and he more than got his own back for the snuff episode! He was a hard act to follow and I didn't attempt to, but rounded off the proceedings as well as I could and we then enjoyed some music provided by Peter accompanied by soprano Elizabeth Karani - one of our Guildhall Alumni, and one to watch; she gave us 'Tournami' from Alcina by Handel; 'Smoke gets in your Eyes' (Kern & Harbach); and a tour de force 'Alleluia' from Mozart's Exultate Jubilate - the enthused response prompted an encore of 'Summertime' by Gershwin. We were right on time now and with all done, Peter played us out to the March from Handel's 'Occasional Oratorio' and mighty fine it was too. We repaired to the courtyard conservatory where a stirrup cup of cognac, armanac and wine etc. awaited and, out in the smoking area, we'd put a box of cigarellos and a jar of good pipe tobacco as every guest had been given a clay pipe and could now charge it if they wished. We had a lively 40 minutes social before the evening closed (more or less on time) and we fell in to taxi's home - if eveyone enjoyed it all as much as I did, we had a jolly good night!