The Orpheus charity was founded in 1997 when five disabled learners lived on site and learned how to cook, manage budgets, do laundry and go shopping. It is a specialist further education college for 18-25 year olds, a unique place for living and learning, which now has 64 learners, all motivated by the arts, and many of them live in the premises in Godstone. Down the years, Orpheus students have performed all across the country, including at the Royal Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, Glastonbury Festival, Notting Hill Carnival, at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and on tv.
The inspiring story of Orpheus was joyously celebrated in the Grand Temple of the Freemasons’ Hall in London on 16th November. The Gala was generously sponsored by the Surrey Freemasons. The Chairman of Trustees, Howard Webber, welcomed everybody before he introduced the founder of Orpheus, Sir Richard Stilgoe OBE DL He hosted the evening in his inimitable style. First of all he introduced the Orpheus Performance Group. They sang and played with gusto, beginning with an appropriate number “You’re Amazing”. Three of the group acted in an amusing short play about people stuck in a lift.
Then it was the turn of alumni. Charlotte Rowling beautifully sang “Memory”, and Angus Morton’s voice was a delight as he sang “This is the moment” from the 1990 musical Jekyll and Hyde. Theo Korlorkoti displayed his talent on the xylophone by playing a medley from Carmen, with his mother accompanying him on the piano. Andrew Self is a very talented dancer and the audience was riveted by his movements and athleticism. All these performances wonderfully demonstrated what the Orpheus Centre does for the lives of those who are helped and guided by its dedicated staff.
Dr Rachel Black, its CEO, spoke about how the disabled are an untapped resource which society needs to recognise, so that more and more people with disabilities can have jobs and so lead independent lives to the benefit of all.
An auction raised over £11,000, the skill and charm of auctioneer Charles Hanson undoubtedly persuading bidders to go higher. The raffle was drawn and then it was time for Stilgoe, father and son, to do a duet, a tribute to Peter Skellern, Sir Richard’s late and sorely missed friend and fellow performer. Joe Stilgoe and his quartet then “did their set”, which was brilliant because of the singing of Joe, his piano playing, the musicianship of the band, and the originality shown. There were even references in the clever amusing lyrics to Trump and Johnson. The highlight was perhaps the number which was all about the joys of the double bass, with part of the bass being drummed upon.
This is the first event that will mark the Silver Anniversary Year. What a tremendous beginning to such a key year. Anyone who’s not had the joy of watching an Orpheus concert should look out for date of the next one and make sure they can attend it. A very happy time will be had. May more and more people hear about The Orpheus Centre and give it their generous support.