Returning to Cadogan Hall for the second time in two weeks (following the Junior School Chamber Choir’s appearance in the GDST Choir of the Year Final), our Junior School Director of Music, Mr. McLaughlin, brought West End stars and community choirs together in a special fundraising evening for the Princess Alice Hospice last weekend.
Creating a chorus of 100 Voices, Mr. McLaughlin brought together the talents of the Princess Alice Hospice Community Choir, the Strawberry Hill Singers and featured guest star Nadim Naaman – Phantom Of The Opera (Raul, Her Majesty’s Theatre, London) and Madagascar 3. The one-off concert, which took place on March 31st, included showtunes from Broadway classics to Schonberg and Kretzmer’s Les Miserables, raising a spectacular £20,000 for the Princess Alice Hospice.
Organising such a major fundraising event alongside full time teaching at NHEHS was no mean feat, so we interviewed Mr McLaughlin on what inspired the idea:
Where did you get the idea for such an ambitious project from?
I have been directing both choirs since they were formed and last year realised that they had both performed some similar repertoire. I thought that I could polish that up and bring both choirs together to make a chorus of 100 voices. I thought that it had great potential to be a really good concert and a fundraiser for the hospice.
What was the most difficult thing about it?
It was a huge challenge and the most difficult thing was bringing all the different elements together; both choirs; the band; the soloists and all the logistics involved.
Why did you choose the Princess Alice Hospice charity & why Cadogan Hall?
I have been involved with music in the hospice for almost five years. My friend died there and she received great care so I have been passionate about the hospice ever since. It is a wonderful place and only receives 22% funding. It needs to raise £9.9million annually just to cover costs and so I was thrilled to be able to do something to help.
As a soloist, I have always loved singing in Cadogan hall, and so it felt like the right place for our choir. It has a large seating capacity but feels quite intimate when you are on stage.
How did you persuade the top West End stars to perform?
I have known Nadim Naaman for some years. His mother actually sings in the choir based at the Hospice. When I spoke to him about the project he was really keen to get involved and organised the other two soloists Soophia Foroughi and Adam Linstead.
Valerie Minifie, the actress who hosted the concert, is an old friend. When I approached her she was very keen to get involved and kindly donated her fee to the Hospice. Nothing less that I would expect from a GDST old girl – she is a Putney High Alumna.
Would you do it again?
It was a really exciting project and I would definitely do something like it again but for now I need a rest.
How much did it raise?
We don’t have an official figure yet as donations are still coming in but we hope to have raised over £20,000.
Did you enjoy it?
I loved it. It was musically very exciting to work with such talented professionals both in the band and the solo singers. It was also fantastic to see the choir get so into it. They sang better than I have ever heard them sing before.
It was also very special for me as my Mum had flown in from Ireland to be there. As it was Mother’s Day I was delighted to be able to present my flowers to her in front of the whole audience.
It was also great to have such support from my NHEHS colleagues – Nina Robertson, Ms. L Dunne and James Edge who all played in the band. My Junior School colleagues Dr. S Raguz; Mrs. H Conway; Mrs. R Makhani and Mrs. D O’Leary all came along to support that evening.
You lead two community choirs outside of NHEHS – how does leading them compare to leading NHEHS choirs?
It’s not much different and I believe that everyone can and should sing so I approach all choirs with the same ethos of enabling people to make the best sound they can regardless of age or ability.
You are obviously very passionate about singing – what do you think it can bring to people’s lives?
I believe that the musical and social interplay as well as the intellectual workout in learning choral music is hugely beneficial to everyone. It is also interesting to note that choral singing provides a non-threatening group activity for people regardless of ability or circumstance.
Singing and particularly group singing is believed to enrich the health and well-being of participants by engaging the members both creatively and physically. Research suggests that group singing generally results in improved living capacity, higher energy levels, relieved breathing symptoms, better posture and enhanced feelings of relaxation, mood and confidence.