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2005-04-19 Classic response to a children's SOS

In much the same way that people rally around after a bereavement, offering their support to those immediately affected by the loss, the world has become great at acting responsibly when a national disaster wreaks havoc on a section of society.

 

But the after-effects of an earthquake, flood, tsunami, famine, disease or war can linger for years, long after the initial support has dried up. There are 16 million orphans in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Carribean. Almost half of these live in Asia. 16% of families in sub-Saharan Africa are child-led.

 

`SOS Children' (set up in 1949) is the world's largest orphan society, providing long-term care for orphaned/abandoned children, supporting thousands of children worldwide who have been affected by multifarious tragedies, giving these vulnerable, lonely children back their childhoods. See www.soschildren.org .

 

The Celtic Tenors were privileged to have been asked to be part of a huge line-up in London's Royal Albert Hall on March 31 "Classic Response" was a benefit concert in aid of the `SOS Children Tsunami Disaster Fund', a sort of "Classical Live-Aid", described by the press as `a cornucopia of Classical Music'.

 

The Albert Hall even waived their charges, giving the hall free for the night. When I lived in London during the 1990s, I had of course been to the Albert Hall on numerous occasions, often attending the renowned `Proms' concerts, but my view had always been of the stage, never of the vast auditorium. As a performer, I suppose there are several venues one strives to perform in during one's career - Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, the Albert Hall, and others. In the afternoon, the acts came together to rehearse for the big night. The line-up included Aled Jones (doubling successfully as singer and MC), Julian Lloyd-Webber, Russell Watson, "Bond" (the most photogenic string players in the business - like musically virtuosic super-models), "G 4" (remember the ones who pushed `our Tabby' into 3rd place in "The X-Factor"? - Boo! Hiss!), "Amici", "The Opera Babes", Keedie, "Duel", Emma Johnson, and the golden-voiced Jon Christos, all held together by the English Chamber Orchestra, under the inspired conducting of Owain Arwel Hughes (Principal Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). With almost 20 acts performing, it was vital that the rehearsal schedule was adhered to strictly. Bearing in mind that an average song lasts around 4 minutes, each act ought to have been able to rehearse their two numbers in perhaps 10 or 15 minutes - Ha!

 

We all know showbiz doesn't work like that. We diligently finished our rehearsal in 10 minutes flat. Others took over an hour for theirs. One act even insisted on having the auditorium empty before rehearsal. Other artists had clearly lost `the enjoyment factor' in music, and were totally about being in this `mother of all venues', and went on to perform with little or no soul. Other acts had begun to clearly believe their own press, their own hype, and behaved accordingly. Evidently, even the colossal Albert Hall was not large enough to contain some of the egos that were taking over the backstage area on the night.

 

You gotta laugh, but it did seem incongruous that this inexcusably brattish behaviour was somehow attempting to upstage a worthy charity. We were all there for the same reason, to raise money for little abandoned children who had next to nothing in their lives. During the concert, intermittent footage reminded us of the work being carried out by `SOS Children', showing us Aled Jones' recent humanitarian trips to Sri Lanka. Some performers, notably the charismatic violin duo - "Duel"- oozed musicality as they sprang onto the stage, communicating fully with the capacity crowd.

 

We were genuinely excited to be making our Albert Hall debut, in fact doubly excited, as we premium¨red a newly composed song to 6000 attentive listeners. It seemed fitting for a children's charity that the `BBC Young Chorister of the Year' - Harry Sever - ended the evening with his clear naivlye boy soprano tones. We were all there to raise funds for orphans worldwide. October 3rd - 9th is "World Orphan Week"  W.O.W. Why not ask your company if `WOW' could be your chosen charity campaign of the year? www.worldorphanweek.com - Wear a `WOW- wristband'. Email jenny@worldorphanweek.com , and as the charity says "Help us help more children, one by one".