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Gladys proud to put Hert and Soul into St Clares

Lifestyle / Fri 17th Jan 2014 at 12:40pm

WHEN Gladys Fleet takes to the stage with the Herts and Soul Community Choir for a fundraising concert in aid of St Clare Hospice she will be singing loud and proud for her husband Peter.

Since encouraging her to join the choir when it was formed four years ago, Peter never missed a single performance and would ask his wife to sing to him when she returned home from rehearsals each week.

Sadly however, Peter will be missing from the audience at the Harlow Playhouse on Saturday, February 1, proceeds from which are being donated to the Hastingwood-based Hospice where the 76-year-old structural design engineer passed away on December 14.

The choir was a huge part of the Stansted couple’s lives. Peter, who fought an eight-year battle with bowel cancer, was a big fan of choral music and loved listening to Gladys sing his favourite song, the Eric Clapton classic Tears in Heaven.

Gladys said: “I used to sing as a child and I joined the choir at the very beginning. I remember saying to Peter that I’d really like to join and he said I should go for it. In his eyes, it was something I could do just for me.

“He attended every single one of our performances. He always made sure he was there even though for some of them he was very ill. The choir was important for both of us and gives me a tremendous boost.”

So much so that following Peter’s death, the choir, led by their Royal Academy-trained musical director Josie Cowley, who is head of music at Herts and Essex High School, sang at Peter’s funeral at St Mary’s Church in Stansted, which was conducted by Hospice chaplain Rev Joyce Smith. They performed one of Peter’s other favourite songs, Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

“When I walked into the church it was filled with so much love,” Gladys said. “It was all I could hear; their voices singing. It was incredible.”

Gladys and her children Nicola and Ewan have drawn much strength from the support of her fellow Soulsters, and the Bishop’s Stortford-based choir could not have chosen a better cause to support for their fourth anniversary concert. Since its inception, they have raised more than £12,500 for local charities.

Gladys said: “Within hours of Peter coming into the Hospice we all just felt so safe. It was like the place had wrapped its arms around all of us and said ‘we are going to take care of you’.

“They didn’t just provide the best possible care for Peter at the end of his life but they looked after us as a family too. They gave us the most precious four weeks and we will be forever grateful. As a family that will always stay with us.”

The grandmother-of-four added: “The choir has been a really important part of our lives. It lifts you every single week and I think that’s the connection it shares with St Clare because the Hospice lifted us too.

“On the night I will be singing loud and proud as best I can. Peter had such amazing spirit and he’s left us with a fantastic legacy. He would be really upset if I didn’t carry on singing.”

The ‘Dedicated to Stage and Screen’ concert will feature songs from across musical ages and genres, some iconic, some unusual but all delivered with pep and passion.

Herts and Soul founder Chris Humphreys said: “Our aim has always been to offer people of all ages a platform to sing in an encouraging, lively environment regardless of their musical ability – for them to experience how a common love for singing can create new friendships and a community buzz.

“Sharing the stage with our Soulsters is a joy; to do so, and raise funds for such a profoundly deserving local institution as St Clare Hospice is the icing on the cake.”

fleetTickets are £13.50 from the Playhouse box office on 01279 431945 or www.playhouseharlow.com.

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