GRAYS, England After joining the Church in 1972, Vera Plumridge began organizing, rehearsing and presenting a musical recital that has become a community mainstay, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The program, called "A Musical Soiree," began as an outgrowth of her piano students' recitals. Back in the days when members raised funds to finance the construction of local buildings, the new convert was asked by branch President Louie Geboin now the Grays Ward, Romford England Stake to find a way to raise money for a planned new meetinghouse. Sister Plumridge suggested a variety show. The president responded, "Good idea. You organize it."
With her community connections, Sister Plumridge contacted dancing school leaders, the new Thameside Theater, an operatic society and an area Catholic choir, who all participated. After extensive advertising, the first event became a smash hit that was attended by the mayor and other local dignitaries.
When the show was over, the mayor was presented with a book about the Mormons. Sometime later, permission was requested for a permit to build a meetinghouse. This permission, which had been refused previously, was granted. Missionaries who ushered at the event were welcomed by the community afterwards
The soiree became an annual event. When the Church's building fund became a thing of the past, the ward discontinued sponsoring the event. However, Sister Plumridge continued the show to benefit other charities. For the past 10 years, the Rotary Club of Mardyke Valley has been the sponsor with proceeds primarily going to support the Burned Children's Club and others.
Among the superior performers who have participated in the soiree are a stake member who is in the Royal Ballet, and a violinist who has recorded for local festivals and movies. One performer is a young man with autism whom she taught to play the piano. She also writes music and poetry.
The 25th anniversary of the soiree was Nov. 6. "It does not seem like 25 years ago," the nearly 80-year-old producer noted in the program. "I cannot promise another 25, but with continued support, I intend to carry on for as long as I am able."
Peter North, a Church member who has served as master of ceremonies for the past seven years, said:
"'Our Vera' is an amazing lady. She still has the enthusiasm and determination that she had when she was putting together her very first soiree. The confidence and encouragement she gives everyone not only helps them on the night, but has inspired many to seek musical and show biz careers. Vera, we are proud of you.... Your influence has spread far and wide."