Andrew Downes (in wheelchair), Paula Downes Soprano, Anna Downes Leader, Anthony Bradbury Conductor, Cynthia Downes, Viola, Central England Ensemble, Elgar Concert Hall, Birmingham University. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.
On February 8th, 2020 at 7.30pm, the Elgar Concert Hall welcomed about 150 warm audience members, made up of many friends, family and supporters. At the beginning of the event, Paula Downes gave a speech about #andrewdownes70, her father's music, and the reason why they have chosen to support Stoke Mandeville Research. Ambassador of the charity, Ali Gibson then gave a heartfelt and honest speech about why it is important to sponsor this charity.
Paula Downes and Ali Gibson in front of Central England Ensemble. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen, and many, many thanks for coming and supporting us this evening.
Tonight we are taking part in a special year of concerts to celebrate the 70th Birthday of my father, English composer, Andrew Downes, who was Head of Composition and Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire, and who has written 114 works for all sorts of forces, which have enjoyed performances around the world, by groups including the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Selwyn and Trinity Chapel Choirs, Cambridge, Flute Choirs throughout America, and World-Class Soloists.
The work we are performing tonight, Celtic Rhapsody for Soprano and Symphony Orchestra, reflects the giving, and hugely positive nature of my father and his music.
It was composed as a gift for me to sing with the Midland Youth Orchestra in 2003. Every player is given a soloistic part. No-one is “written down to”. Everyone feels a sense of importance. In this sense it is actually more like chamber music, even though it is written for full-scale symphony orchestra.
Tonight, just as in the premiere, Anthony Bradbury will be conducting and my sister Anna will be leading.
My Dad is such a prolific composer, it is impossible for me to tell you all about him in a short speech. To find out more, do visit andrewdownes.com, where you will find information on all his works; recordings; films; downloadable sheet music; a Blog written by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes; and a podcast series hosted by me. You can also buy some of his CDs in the foyer during the interval.
Our year of concerts, #andrewdownes70, is raising money for Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research, since my Dad sadly broke his back 10 years ago and received amazing care at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where they helped him to learn how to live as a paraplegic. Many of you have kindly donated already via eventbrite. There will also be a collection during the interval and at the end of the concert.
I would now like to invite Ali Gibson of Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research to talk about this charity.
Watch Ali's Speech:
Paula speaking again:
Before I go I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who are involved in tonight's performance and the huge support you have given our family. I would like to thank my sister Anna in particular for bringing all these wonderful performers together tonight.
Without further ado I would like to invite Leader Anna Downes and Conductor Anthony Bradbury to the stage.
The Orchestra proceeded to play Brahms Accademic Festival Overture, followed by Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody with Paula Downes as the Soprano Soloist.
Soprano Paula Downes performing Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody with Central England Ensemble conducted by Anthony Bradbury. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.
Andrew Downes then wheeled on stage to rapturous applause, which segued into "Happy Birthday", which can be heard here.
Anthony Bradbury, Andrew Downes, Paula Downes, Central England Ensemble. Photo by Jenni Bradbury.
After the interval, Anthony Bradbury and the CEE treated the audience to Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony.
Central England Ensemble performing Rachmaninov 2nd Symphony under Anthony Bradbury. Photo by Jenni Bradbury
Audience reaction on Social Media:
Letter from Richard Tolkein, Chairman of the Trustees of Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research:
From Ali Gibson:
We would love to hear about your experience. Please share it here!