One of my favourite regular performances is for the residents of Brinsworth House in Twickenham. Brinsworth House is a residential home for retired actors and performers and run by the Royal Variety Charity. Set in over three acres of land, Brinsworth is a large mansion on the outskirts of Twickenham and for over one hundred years has become the home of many well loved performers who have spent their lives serving the entertainment industry. Built in 1850, the house has 36 luxury bedrooms, six separate living/ function rooms, an entertainment stage with bar area, a conservatory, library, restaurant, television rooms and even a hair salon. The home is decorated throughout to emphasise and represent its theatrical connection.
The concerts are always on an afternoon scheduled for 2pm so a cup of tea and refreshment can be served after by the very professional and dedicated staff. A quirk of London transport means that although I only live 15 miles away from Brinsworth it takes me three trains and a bus to get there, I always like to get there early to have a cuppa and a chat to a few of the residents before hand and catch up with any news.
Occasionally I’ll be with a pianist and go through the sheet music and repertoire before hand so we are ‘both on the same page’ literally! Often however I’ll be performing to my backing tracks and Brinsworth is the only retirement home I know with not only a stage and baby grand piano but a full sound system with mixer and radio mics which makes my life a lot easier to just plug my tracks into, connect a microphone and have a sound check. I’m even provided with my own ‘green room’ to change and relax in before the performance.
A lot of my repertoire resinates with the residents as they remember well the old musicals and hits of the sixties and seventies as well as the classics by the likes of Mario Lanza. At my last concert I took the audience on a journey ‘Around The World’ starting from my home ‘Durham Town’ through the ‘Streets Of London’ onto ‘New York New York’ and ‘San Francisco’ over to Italy with ‘Nella Fantasia’ and ‘O Sole Mio’ then Ireland with ‘Danny Boy’ and with a generous helping of Musical Theatre favourites and Matt Monro hits in between we arrived back from our journey with ‘Green Green Grass of Home’.
A chat with everyone after and another cuppa rounds off a lovely afternoon and fills me with great joy to know that I’m singing to some of the best in the business, including Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, husband and wife who have been married for 64 years this year, who were big stars back in the day. It was Pearl and Teddy who represented Great Britain in the 1959 Eurovision Song contest coming in a wonderful second place with there beautifully synced voices performing ‘Sing Little Birdie’ catch them on youtube https://youtu.be/XWCocfbZOOs
I somehow get the feeling that we will not be winning or coming anywhere near second in the Eurovision Song contest anytime soon!