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Leonard Cheshire Evening of Celebration

28 November 2017

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Leonard Cheshire was a truly great man; a man of integrity and compassion. He put his energy, talents and abilities into helping others less fortunate than himself. This year marks the centenary of his wonderfully fulfilling and rewarding life and on Sunday 19 November, the School was proud and honoured to present a touching and heartfelt concert of music and words, staged in the intimate surroundings of the Ugland Auditorium. A cast of Stoics, teaching staff and four visiting professional actor/singers all helped to deliver an engaging presentation that had our audience mesmerised from start to finish. The Arts at Stowe team deserve huge credit for managing the event and being able to liaise with Emma Pearce, from Leonard Cheshire Disability, so effectively. The Catering Department laid on a superb selection of cakes and refreshments for the interval and in this time our audience had the chance to enjoy the mobile exhibition of photos and memorabilia put together so sensitively by Anna McEvoy, Stowe House Custodian. This exhibition documents his life so well and will enjoy pride of place in the Marble Salon throughout the year. Rachel Sherry, Stowe’s Head of Singing, led the Choir, featuring Tallulah Goldsmith (Fifth Form, Stanhope), Poppy de Salis (Lower Sixth, Stanhope), Georgia Glenser (Fifth Form, Lyttelton), Georgina Vallings (Upper Sixth, Lyttelton), Isobel Hopkins (Fifth Form, Lyttelton), Emily Banks (Fifth Form, Lyttelton), Emily Pacia (Lower Sixth, Lyttelton), Emily Wilson (Fifth Form, Stanhope) and Helena Vince (Lower Sixth Queen’s) in a beautiful rendition of a song entitled `Far Away`. Even though this song was first written at the end of WW2, the version that we heard so tenderly arranged and performed on Sunday, was a world premiere. Ben Andrew, the School’s Head of Keyboard, played to his usual exceptional standards on piano throughout the concert and accompanied Andrew Friedhoff and the Choir in a quite stunning version of the Puccini classic ‘Nessun Dorma’ which acted as a fitting finale. The majority of the readings were handled with consummate ease by our three professional visiting actors; Richard Henders, Will Rycroft and Claire Winsper. They were ably supported by Kezia ClarkJones (Upper Sixth, Queen’s), Imogen Oliver (Lower Sixth, Queen’s) and Alexandra Orton (Upper Sixth, Lyttelton) who joined Dr Anthony Wallersteiner, Dr Crispin Hyde-Dunn (the Head of the Dragon School) and myself in giving some readings drawn from the varied books and memoirs that Leonard wrote during his lifetime. Henry McQuitty (Upper Sixth, Walpole) on drums and Theodore Hayes (Fifth Form, Chatham) on piano expertly accompanied Mina Haas (Upper Sixth, Stanhope) in her stunning rendition of the Hoagy Carmichael standard ‘The Nearness of You’ and Oscar Hill (Lower Sixth, Temple) on marimba and William Baker (Lower Sixth, Chatham) on piano played a haunting and traditional Sakura song that followed a poignant and sobering reading about Leonard’s reaction to witnessing at first hand the dropping of the H bomb on Nagasaki in August 1945. Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to say what a pleasure it was to work so closely with all the performers in helping to shape and stage the event for our most supportive and enthusiastic audience. The life and legacy of Leonard Cheshire was the key focus throughout and we were able to give a fitting and heartfelt tribute to his remarkable life.

Nick Bayley, Drama Department