My Christmas choir vision

16 November 2018

By Amy Bradley

Amy at her graduationI'm Amy and I'm a Change 100 intern (Read about my journey and how I found myself in Change 100)

Life in the Regional Fundraising team is hugely varied: every day is different and every day brings new and exciting challenges!

My main project in particular has posed a number of challenges, brought me much joy, ended up in me doing so many unexpected things (like going on a radio show!) and has really shown me what Leonard Cheshire is all about.

Early days: organising a Christmas concert

On my first day as a Change 100 intern, my manager, Jen, tasked me with organising and managing a Christmas fundraising concert (that’s my excuse for singing Christmas carols since July)!

Stuart Goodwin (Stockport Male Voice Choir), Lord Ashbrook (Arley Hall), Amy Bradley, Ray Palmer (Stockport Male Voice Choir) standing in Arley Hall

It will be the sister event to Leonard Cheshire’s concert at St Clement Danes in London , the concert will be held at Arley Hall Chapel, Northwich, Cheshire on Tuesday 18 December at 7pm.

Lord Ashbrook, a long standing patron of Leonard Cheshire had kindly offered Jen his chapel for an event to celebrate Christmas, the 70th Anniversary of Leonard Cheshire starting our charity and 100 years of the RAF with whom he served and was highly decorated for his contributions.

In addition to the offer of the chapel, Jen had been given contact details for Stockport Male Voice Choir by a generous lady she’d met on a re-directed train journey (yes, those conversations really do go places!). Beyond that, the page was blank, and I was given free reign.

Little did Jen know what she’d let herself in for!

Music, music and more music!

Growing up in Wales, with hugely inspirational music teachers, the fabulous Gwent Music Support Service and opportunities at King Henry VIII Comprehensive, music has always been a true passion of mine.

My childhood piano teacher, Penny Hughes, showed me that music is for sharing, for bringing people together and introduced me to the power of community music making and tradition first as her page-turner and then occasional assistant rehearsal pianist with Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Choir.

In fact, at the tender age of 11, the gents of Abertillery Orpheus showed me how to open bottles of beer whilst they were performing at a beer festival!

(Fortunately I didn’t acquire a love for beer at the same time or my Mum would have had something to say about it)

Recruiting Choir members

Music has been my solace during my period of illness. Six months in, I discovered a piano group in Manchester which has provided me with a community, focus and one of the best friends I’ve ever had!

We’re players of any ability, from absolute beginners to professionals. What we share is simply a love of music and piano playing.

The group gave me a reason to keep persevering, something to look forward to and something to break up the loneliness and monotony of being largely house-bound and in pain during the worst times, and it continues to be something I enjoy, look forward to and am involved with as I increasingly get better. So, back to the tale!

Using music as a glue of unity

You may have gathered that I love music. You may have gathered that I love working with people.

And you may have gathered that I believe, from the bottom of my heart in the wonderful work, mission of and opportunities provided to disabled people by Leonard Cheshire.

For me, the Leonard Cheshire Christmas concert that I am organising, A Christmas Musical Extravaganza at Arley Hall, is naturally about fundraising so that we can continue to do our marvellous work.

However, it is also about raising awareness of our organisation and of disability, it is about cultivating new relationships, thanking long-standing supporters and publicising our presence in the North of England.

Bee Flat Sax Quartet

We have a great line up — the Bee Flat Sax Quartet from The University of Manchester, a young solo flautist , Molly Bradley, the Stockport Male Voice choir and readings from Lord Ashbrook and Amber, a proud Can Doer. It promises to be a beautiful evening of Christmas joy and spirit.

From the start, however, I have maintained that our concert should not just be for the people of Leonard Cheshire, it should be about the people of Leonard Cheshire.

The Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir

I know what it’s like to not know if you’re going to recover, lead the life that you want to.

Our flautist Molly

I know what it’s like to feel a bit like a prisoner within four walls, to want to just be able to go outside, and know how hard it is to accept disability and a dramatic change in circumstances. I know what it is like to feel lonely and cut off.

I want to help make a difference to people who are experiencing a similar, albeit much more severe experience to myself, and bring people together in the process.

More importantly, my Change 100 experience has brought home the power of hope and possibility.

So I’ve formed the Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir. What on earth is that you may ask?

The Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir is a choir in the style of the BBC’s Gareth Malone (I acknowledge that I certainly am not Gareth Malone and never shall be), directed by second year Manchester University student, Isla Atay.

It will be comprised of residents from our Acquired Brain Injury Centre, Oakwood, in Offerton, Stockport, Oakwood’s residents, friends, family and Leonard Cheshire staff who support them, members of the community and shining members of Leonard Cheshire’s Can Do programme.

My Christmas choir vision

My vision is that the Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir will help to ‘bring the outside in’ to people recovering from life changing brain injuries at Oakwood ABI, Stockport, and share community, togetherness and fun!

We’re rehearsing weekly, assisted by cake (yes, I am taking requests!), and will be having our premiere performance at Arley Hall Chapel on Tuesday 18 December as part of the concert.

Cupcakes in front sheet music

In a way, I suppose, you could say that we’re ending things fittingly by ‘taking the inside out’.

In short, we’re going to share something together, find a way for everyone who wishes to join in and bring Christmas joy to Oakwood’s corridors.

This should be something really special. It’s different, it’s pioneering and it is a Leonard Cheshire first!

The Blog Continues

Hold on tight!

I’ll be blogging our journey, posting videos and photos of how we’re getting on. Please follow us, like us, share us, and come along to our concert!

Thanks to Corkills Northwich Hyundai for their generous sponsorship of the Leonard Cheshire Christmas Choir and to Purchasing Support Services for their kind sponsorship of the VIP reception on the night of the concert.

Amy is a 2018 Change 100 intern.

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