The National Brain Appeal Christmas carol concert has always been a favourite fixture in the festive calendar and this year was no exception.
For everyone who has a link to Queen Square – from current and former patients, students and charity fundraisers to trustees, consultants and staff from The National – it is a magical event. This year, we were delighted to be joined by actors Phyllida Law, Sophie Thompson and Demetri Goritsas who added more than a touch of celebrity sparkle.
Gordon Plant, a consultant neurologist at The National, has had a long involvement with our carol concert. He takes us behind the scenes in preparation for the concert.
I have worked at The National Hospital since 1989, first as a senior house officer and then as a consultant. I very quickly realised that this was where I was destined to work, helping patients with what are considered to be untreatable disorders.
My own musical interest is in playing members of the clarinet family of instruments from the bass to the tiny E Flat soprano, I also have an interest in learning the solo repertoire for the clarinet and though I don’t sing myself, I’ve been involved with the choir at The National for a number of years.
The National Brain Appeal carol concert is a relatively recent addition to my yearly round of concerts and I sometimes have the additional task of finding celebrities to attract audiences. My personal best was Sir Willard White a few years ago; he was magnificent and I was very proud to spend the evening with such a personality and talent.
For the concert this year we had three choirs performing and I thought it would be good to have a contrast, hence the toy symphony by Leopold Mozart. It is a chance to put non-musicians on the stage to play the toys and benefited from being a little – shall we say – under-rehearsed!
Once I knew who was playing in the band I then had to arrange the parts for the ensemble and recruit a conductor. Harry Lester was fantastic and he is one of the few permitted to play the organ in St George the Martyr because it is so fragile. Harry doesn’t take himself too seriously and works well with musicians of all abilities – including those with none as he demonstrated here.
Probably, the most difficult part was assembling the collection of toy instruments for the soloists and I remember telephoning all the toy shops inLondonand asking them to blow their toy trumpets down the phone to find one that played concert ‘F’. The last job was to choose the soloists and match them with the toys, which was fun! In the end, we only had one rehearsal – it needed to be edgy!
If you work at The National and would like to be an instrumentalist with the choir please contact Gordon. If you are interested in singing or helping to co-ordinate the choir please contact Linda Liptrot.