On Wednesday 13 June, Investec Opera Holland Park spent the day with our community, sharing with them the enrichment and power to heal that music brings. In the evening we gathered the community together for the Hope for Grenfell Memorial Gala, held in memory of our friend Debbie Lamprell and all the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and in aid of Rugby Portobello Trust.
As part of the evening, a choir of 200 children and adults from the community, alongside our own Opera Holland Park chorus, performed ‘Help Me Believe’, a new piece commissioned by OHP, with words and music by Will Todd and Gareth Malone.
The piece was created through a series of workshops over the last few months, as part of our Inspire project. Members of the community helped to write the words, describing their hopes for the future and their desire for remembrance, making it particularly meaningful for them.
In the short clip below you can see the emotion in the faces of the children who lost friends, and who remembered their loved ones through the music and lyrics. Although tearful, the song gave the children and older members of the community a chance to stand together, strong and supportive, and to commemorate loved ones hand in hand. Nobody who saw this performance will forget it.
The community members, children, their parents and their schools have all authorised the release of this footage, and wish for people to see their performance and hear their song.
Towards the end of the gala, the Opera Holland Park chorus, City of London Sinfonia and the many incredible guests and artists who joined us for the event, performed Will Todd’s beautiful and moving new orchestral arrangement of Amazing Grace. The orchestral arrangement is dedicated to Debbie Lamprell.
James Clutton, Opera Holland Park’s Director of Opera, on commissioning Help Me Believe:
“In July 2017, when Michael Volpe and I sat down with Mark Simms in the Rugby Portobello Trust office and decided to produce the Verdi Requiem, the idea of producing a gala on the first anniversary of the disaster was already sown. With the Opera Holland Park team reeling in shock from the loss of our friend and colleague Debbie, it seemed only right that we would continue to honour her and everyone else who lost their lives.
A year on and here we are. Will Todd was my first choice to write something for a community choir to mark the anniversary. When I asked Gareth Malone to join us, he was immediately as committed and as passionate as Will. I am immensely proud of what they and the community have achieved.”
Lucy Curtis, Opera Holland Park’s Inspire Co-ordinator, on the process of creating the song:
“The tragedy of the Grenfell fire had a huge impact on the community surrounding it. Boundaries were broken and people from different religions, backgrounds and nationalities came together, drawing strength from each other. We are proud that a section of this community is here tonight to perform a song created and inspired by them.
When planning began for this evening, Opera Holland Park, Rugby Portobello Trust, Will Todd and Gareth Malone were passionate in their conviction that a song performed by our community choir should be created by the community itself; to give people a chance to commemorate those they had lost, and to bring others together in their personal recollections and honest words. Gareth and Will visited schools and community groups, working closely with the participants in each place to
paint a picture for the song, to gather ideas and to work as one in remembering lost loved ones and reflecting on the tragedy. Throughout the process, Opera Holland Park has worked sensitively with
each group, providing a safe space in which to remember and reflect in a positive and constructive manner.
From freeze-frames and meaningful lyrics, to powerful beats and moving melodies, Will and Gareth spent the next two months assembling the material into the song you will hear here tonight, ‘Help Me Believe’. Different sections reflect different groups’ input, and all elements have been inspired by those with whom we worked. We hope that you will hear in the words, music and performance the commitment that each member of this group has made to create ‘Help Me Believe’, and invite you to join in the commemoration by singing with us as a community.”
The evening was full of stunning renditions of many operatic favourites, including scenes from our current productions of La traviata and Così fan tutte. The arias and choruses were interspersed with readings and poems, many of which were written by children from the community who had lost friends and loved ones in the tragedy.
Tobi-King Bakare and Red Elazouar performed Someone Please Explain, a new spoken word piece they wrote.
Below are a selection of photographs documenting the event:
Photos by © Ali Wright for Opera Holland Park.