The Helen & Douglas House 25th Anniversary Concert on 19th March was the final event in the 25th Anniversary year and will be remembered by all who attended as a very special night indeed.
St. John’s, Smith Square, formally a church and now one of London’s major concert venues is situated in amongst the hubbub of Westminster, but inside, the elegant baroque architecture provided an atmospheric backdrop to the night’s performance.
At 7.25pm Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, who is not only patron of Helen & Douglas House, but also of St. John’s and The London Chamber Orchestra, arrived at the venue. They were met at the entrance by Sister Frances and Tom Hill, who accompanied them inside where The Duchess of Cornwall was presented with a beautiful posy of forget-me-nots by Douglas House guest, Laura Merry. As Their Royal Highnesses took their seats, Sister Frances took her place on stage to welcome concert goers and Helen & Douglas House guests to the event.
The musical programme was played by The London Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of conductor Christopher Warren-Green, and included pieces in the first half by Elgar and German composer Max Bruch. Akiko Suwanai played the solo for Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 in G Minor Op.26 and looked radiant as she took her place centre stage, between the first violins and Warren-Green. The scene, framed by the simple columns of St. John’s and the red thick velvet drapes covering the long windows behind the stage, was made more beautiful only by the gorgeous flower arrangements, provided by the wonderful Len and Taeko Marvelly.
The interval drinks reception was held in the restaurant in the crypt and was attended by Their Royal Highnesses who were introduced to lots of Helen & Douglas House supporters, as well as families and another Douglas House Guest, Dean Anderson. With only 20 minutes to fit all this in before the second half of the concert began, it was a bit of a race against time! We were very privileged in the second half to have 16 year old pianist, Teo Gheorghiu play the solo for Nigel Hess’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, which was commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales in memory of HRH The Queen Mother. This was the debut performance of the piece in London which added to the magic of the event.
When the concert was over and Their Royal Highnesses had left for the evening, the celebrations continued downstairs in the crypt with drinks, canapés and speeches until tired eyes and the thoughts of another early morning brought the evening to a close.
The 25th Anniversary Year has been a great success with memorable events including the concert at Dorchester Abbey in April, the Big Top Ball in September and the Thanksgiving Service at Christchurch Cathedral in October. It truly is marvellous to be able to say that the final event was a hit, and we hope to have raised £10,000 from the concert!