Good elf at Christmas
28 November, 2019 — By Róisín Gadelrab
Judith Owen is set to host Christmas Without Tears
JUDITH Owen is well prepared. “I made myself a double espresso last night so I could wake up, roll over, drink it and speak to you,” she says.
The jet-lagged Welsh musician is in London to prepare for the annual Christmas Without Tears extravaganza that she hosts with husband Harry Shearer – he of Spinal Tap and The Simpsons.
It’s an eclectic festive show set in a re-creation of their living room, with an equally varied roll of guests. Taking place at the Hyatt Regency London Churchill Hotel in Marylebone on December 1, it began more than a decade ago as a party to distract Judith from the Californian sunshine at a time of year when she felt she should be hiding away from the cold.
“Christmas Without Tears, as I have named it for a good reason, because I find Christmas to be a really hard time of the year and other people do,” she says.
“I have a difficult association with it – my mum died just before it. I have mixed feelings: sadness at missing her and a joy that she instilled in me, a love-hate thing.
“A lot of people get that sadness – missing people, even a homesick feeling. Christmas means bad weather and hiding from the elements and the lights. It’s very different from California where it’s warm.”
And so it began.
“I started this party in our house in California, in our little cottage, and invited all my friends, and we would gather around the piano and do what I used to do – very Welsh, eating and drinking. It’s all about joining in and having that delicious moment where it’s not about commercialism, it’s about enjoying yourself, any excuse to sing and entertain.”
It has since evolved after hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005.
“Then Katrina happened and this party became something bigger,” Judith says.
“We were invited to do the show in Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA. It had grown over the years, a big-deal, must-attend party, and so we decided now we would make it into a stage show and raise money for New Orleans, for medical help and support for musicians there. There was so much illness but so much mental illness that followed on from that disaster – supporting the mental wellbeing of that community which is the backbone of it.”
The London show raises funds for homeless charity West London Mission, which Judith was introduced to by the Marylebone Music Festival.
She says: “Particularly in London, there’s a devastating level of homelessness, it’s so necessary and totally appalling because, at the end of the day, we’re still a wealthy country, despite everything going on, and we’re being told we’re able to find money for some things but not for the homeless.”
This year’s guests include Harry Enfield, Woman To Woman, Sean Keaveny, Clinton Baptiste, Miss Hope Springs and many more.
“They are astounding shows and have the most incredible people giving their time,” says Judith.
“It’s just a veritable bag of joy. It’s always been very irreverent and reverent. There are moments in it that make you cry, choked up, which is entirely appropriate, these amazing songs, moments that make you fill up and think about childhood, and things that make you special, and incredible comedians and acts that make you laugh and have you rolling on the floor.
“We dress it like our living room. It’s based on the living room I originally had. There’s a piano, tinsel [and] chairs.
“Some great tree covered in beauty and baubles, etc, because that’s what makes us all swoon and be happy.”
And one of the highlights of every show is master of satire Shearer’s annual topical song. Judith says: “I’m excited and I think it’s going to be very topical. We’re so spoilt for choice with these conjoined twins in Trump and BoJo, festooned. There’s sadly so much to laugh at.
“There’s a lot of material at this time of year to just let rip.
“He is the political satirist, so that’s what I look for Harry to bring.”
But will Judith’s latest single, Second Hand Sexbot, inspired by a documentary about a lonely married man who couldn’t afford a brand-new model, be making an appearance?
“If I sang Christmas second-hand sexbot, I could maybe get away with – isn’t this something you all want at Christmas? Part of me wants to do it, but another part makes me is thinking it would be so self-promoting.”