Most of our concerts are performed by two singers, usually Maria Arakie (soprano) and Glenn Wilson (baritone), although other singers are occasionally added to order. They are accompanied by a top rate pianist, such as Carol Wells, Nicholas Bosworth, Gavin Mole, Julian Jacobson, Antony Gray and Sheila Thomas, according to availability. All are fully trained and experienced performers. We seek to provide a high quality entertainment for older people in Greater London, many of whom are frail and vulnerable or socially isolated due to circumstance or illness. The venues we visit include homes, hospitals, hospices, day care centres, sheltered housing and community-based clubs for elders.
Connaught Opera was formed in 2003. We are a Registered Charity No. 1131004. Our management committee comprises Maria Arakie Chair, Glenn Wilson Treasurer, Alan Steinfeld QC Secretary, Shabir Dawood Trustee and Dr. William Acker Trustee.
We are delighted to welcome as our President, Billy Dove OBE, JP, Deputy, Chief Commoner 2015-2016.
Our Patron, Wendy Mead OBE, CC, Sheriff of London 2011-12 Member, Court of Common Council, City of London Corporation.
Billy Dove OBE
Wendy Mead OBE - Past Chief Commoner
Alan Steinfeld QC
Dr. Glenn D Wilson
Dr. Bill Acker
The charity sector has been criticised for the high remuneration given to some of its workers. Our ethos has always been to ensure that all our income is restricted to fulfilling the grants we have been awarded. Although performers are paid a small, set fee for their services, we have no salaried employees and no expenses are paid to our Trustees.
The Charity Commission has agreed that Connaught Executives/Trustees may be paid reasonable performance fees provided they are in a minority of the Committee that sets the fee. Two are indeed regular performers. However, neither is irreplaceable; if one is unavailable or indisposed a talented substitute can be drafted in. This has occasionally happened in the past, with the result that we have never in our ten year history had to cancel a planned concert.
A sample of quotes from feedback that we have received.
Darwin Court, Peabody, Lambeth : "Please accept our best wishes for the continued successful and positive difference that your organisation makes to local communities.
The event managed to improve the social inclusion of the residents and local community with several attendees', who are classified as "Socially isolated" (less than 4 interactions per week) by the housing team, undertaking befriendment activities as a direct result of their participation.
Further the impact on the social wellbeing of participants and general atmosphere of the centre on the weeks after the event was improved. Further several audience members have taken the initiative themselves to attend the "Sinatra" musical as a group resulting from their participation in the event.
The majority of the audience in the weeks after the event commented heavily on how certain music themes of the event related to historical themes or events in their personal lives. This was most notable in residents who have been medically diagnosed with different levels of dementia.
Carers were active audience members of the event. (The group's) flexible, passionate and professional approach to the event was a credit and enhanced the overall experience that the audience received."
Westminster: "One of the main functions of the Hub is to enable older people - with different backgrounds, different levels of managing in later life, and needs to engage in a shared event, and this was certainly one of the best we have had at 60 Penfold Street. It is so important to break down barriers between people who have got dementia and who live in a residential setting - and people in the wider community.
Our participants love the concerts from Connaught Opera - they value the really high degree of commitment from the artists and the quality of the performance. Being able to attend such an event in their local community is as important as many would find it difficult to travel".
Wandsworth: "We are seeing services for older people being cut back year by year leaving our very high numbers of older people in Roehampton socially isolated. This leaves the voluntary sector to support very old, frail and isolated people in our community.
The Connaught Opera provides a wonderful transport of delight through its concerts and leaves everyone in good spirits. It is a great support in what we try to achieve through the 60Plus Cafe. We very much appreciate their support through your funding."
Bromley: "Many thanks for the concert yesterday, it was really well received and the staff mentioned the high standard of music in today's care meeting."
Havering: "The service users really enjoyed the entertainment ...they explained it was their type of music..They confirmed the music was beautiful"
Ealing: "Fantastic. Some people who never smile had huge grins on their faces".
Bromley & Greenwich. "(the artistes)ensured that all clients felt individually valued by holding hands with service users and singing to them directly, this was especially meaningful when singing to a client with severe visual impairment and anxiety who responds very well to music. All service users that attended stated how much they enjoyed the concert".
Tower Hamlets: "The concert was engaging and entertaining. I look forward to having the group back to perform".
Hackney: "...The costumes and singing were amazing. This free concert was well appreciated by the residents in Housing with Care, and staff, as it supports our work to reduce social isolation and improve well being".
Richmond: "Excellent, professional. Wonderful costumes".
We find increasingly that our audiences respond to a themed concert. With that in mind we have adopted themes to fit major events including the First World War and in 2015 the signing of the Magna Carta, both significantly impacting on our lives. The London Olympics, Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee, a Georgian Odyssey, and other events that have special relevance.
Each theme is carefully researched for relevant music, costumes and not least, the interesting and often educational information that is compiled by Glenn Wilson. Other themes have been the Fabulous Fifties and of course traditional festivals and celebrations of Christmas, Easter, Channukah, and special birthdays, both for individuals and day centres, like Netherwood, who for 25 years have served their community suffering with dementia in Camden.
ABOVE: Carol, Maria and Glenn at Kensington Palace for a Fabulous Fifties concert, sponsored by City Bridge Trust.
Apart from our standard repertoire of Anglo-American musicals and operetta, in order to best serve the cultural diversity present in the older population of Greater London, we include medleys catering specifically to French, Italian, Spanish, Welsh, Irish, Scottish, Hebrew, West Indian and, recently, Hindi groups. We seek to include everyone in our concerts by presenting a glamorous and lively performance - this can mean wearing bright reds for a partially sighted audience to enjoy (the last colour in the spectrum to be lost in the visually impaired), changing repertoire and costumes for repeat visits, and so on.
During the recent year of Heritage and Culture, we arranged concerts at Heritage sites in the London Boroughs to which older people were transported so they could enjoy a concert in a fabulous setting, giving them a magical outing. The Heritage sites in which we performed were: Valance House Museum, Barking & Dagenham; Eastbury Manor House, Barking; Avenue House, Barnet; Hall Place, Bexley; Brent Town Hall, Brent; Pitshanger Manor, Ealing; Forty Hall, Enfield; St. Ann’s Library, Haringey; Headstone Manor, Harrow; Langtons Hall, Havering; Winston Churchill Hall, Hillingdon; Osterley Park, Hounslow; Hampton Court Palace, Kingston; The Canon’s House, Merton; Ilford Chapel, Redbridge; The Octagon, Orleans Gallery, Richmond; Carew Manor, Sutton and Wigmore Hall, Westminster.
Left to right: Glenn Wilson, Maria Arakie and Pianist Carol Wells
at Valance House Museum, Barking & Dagenham.
Our grateful thanks to the Charitable Trusts, Community Funds, Lottery Funders, Arts Trusts and London Borough Councils who have contributed so generously to Connaught Opera in order that we might continue our work, promoting community cohesion within the network of care for older people in Greater London Boroughs and the South East of England. These benefactors are listed below. We also wish to thank the day centres, nursing homes, hospice and hospitals who paid fees directly to Connaught Opera for additional bookings. Yamaha and Markson Pianos have been brilliant in their support by loaning us grand pianos for our Knebworth House and Hampton Court Palace concerts.
Principal Benefactors, listed alphabetically:
- Age Concern and Help The Aged
- Age Concern, Bexley
- Age Concern, Camden
- Age Concern, Southwark
- AGE UK
- Arts About Wandsworth
- Arts Council England (GFTA)
- Arts Council England (London Arts)
- Arts Council North East
- Awards For All
- Bedfont Day Centre, Hounslow
- Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation
- Blenheim Day Centre (CWNL Mental Health NHS Trust)
- Burnham Lodge Nursing Home
- Camden Council - Housing & Adult Social Care: (Ingestre Road Residential Home; Wellesley Road Residential Home; Branch Hill Residential Home; St. Margaret’s Elderly Persons Home)
- Carebase Limited
- Central & Cecil Housing Trust
- Chapman Charitable Trust
- Chelsea & Westminster Hospital
- City Of Westminster (Arts)
- Citywest Homes
- Concertina Charitable Trust
- EC1 NDC - Community Chest & Festival Funds
- Edward Harvist Trust (London Borough of Brent)
- Elmbridge Borough Council
- Hallmark Healthcare
- Hampshire County Council
- Hampstead Wells & Campden Trust
- Hampton Court Palace, London Borough of Richmond (Initiatives Fund) & Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames (Arts Grants Fund) - Joint Initiative
- Heron International (Gerald Ronson)
- Hertfordshire County Council (Adult Care Services)
- Knebworth House - Hertfordshire County Council (Adult Services) & Quantum Care - Joint Initiative
- Livery Companies - The Worshipful Companies of:
- Merchant Taylors’
- Stationers and Newspaper Makers
- London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (Molten Festival)
- London Borough of Barnet
- London Borough of Camden (Culture Small Arts Grant)
- London Borough of Ealing (Arts & Culture)
- London Borough of Hackney (Discover Hackney)
- London Borough of Haringey
- London Borough of Harrow
- London Borough of Havering
- London Borough of Hounslow
- London Borough of Islington (Social Services) (Arts & Culture)
- London Borough of Lewisham
- London Borough of Merton (Arts Development Fund)
- London Borough of Newham (Go For It Grants)
- London Borough of Redbridge (Arts Development)
- London Borough of Richmond (Civic Pride Fund)
- London Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames (Arts Service, Orleans House & Gallery)
- London Borough of Sutton (Imagine Festival)
- London Catalyst
- London Councils
- Nonsuch Rotary (Sutton)
- Northern Rock Foundation
- Norton House, Victoria (Anchor)
- Paddington Rotary
- Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames (Neighbourhood Fund)
- Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Arts Council
- Reading Borough Council
- RPLC Richmond Parish Lands Charity
- Sadlers Wells Theatre
- Servite Houses
- Sundial Link Age Centre, Peabody Trust
- Sutton Community Fund
- The Barnes Workhouse Fund
- The City Bridge Trust
- The Close Care Home, Abingdon
- The Foyle Foundation
- The Italian Consulate General
- The National Trust
- The Royal Star & Garter Home, Richmond-Upon-Thames
- The Tower Hill Trust
- Tower Hamlets Project (Jointly Funded By London Catalyst, Sundial Link Age Plus, St. Katharine & Shadwell Trust)
- Trust For London
- Villa Scalabrini, Herts
- Westminster Arts
- Westminster City Council (Sing London)