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).
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 Nicholas Bosworth, Gavin Mole and Carol Wells, according to availability. All are fully trained and experienced performers.
We seek to provide high quality entertainment for older people in Greater London. The venues we visit include homes, hospitals, hospices, day care centres, sheltered housing and community-based clubs for elders. We have also had the good fortune to be hosted by some of the most glamorous and historical Heritage sites in England.
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.
Let us introduce ourselves...
Alan Steinfeld QC
Dr. Glenn Wilson
Dr. Bill Acker
In Memorium – Billy Dove OBE
During a long and illustrious career, as a teacher, JP and Councillor for the City of London, Billy will be most remembered for his enormous contribution to the field of charity work, raising enormous sums for those lucky enough to secure his unstinting services. Billy loved the pageantry of the City of London. An enthusiastic Royalist he was so proud of meeting most of the Royals during his glittering career and being awarded first the MBE and then an OBE.
He occupied many key executive roles during his career, including Chair of City Bridge Trust, Chief Commoner of the City of London, and served on the boards of some 30 Charities. We were proud and flattered when he recently decided that work was so overwhelming him that he resigned from all of them – except ours.
Connaught Opera held a special place in his heart and his life. Following one of our AGM’s he wrote: “What a joy and a relief to have some good news. Bless you all for the excellent work you do to keep the good ship Connaught afloat. I am proud to be a part of this wonderful organisation. Love to all, Billy”
He celebrated his humble beginnings in Yorkshire and we loved to tease him gently. A champion of the disabled and underprivileged, he worked tirelessly to raise funds to keep them afloat. A true friend, from the first day we met, Billy was always there to steer and support us.
We will miss you sorely dearest friend Billy – may you continue to look down on us affectionately.
(Mosaic by Anna Clark)
He shed a tear when we sang “When I Grow too Old to Dream” at the Tower of London – it being his Mother’s favourite, which she always sang to him.
Seen below: Cartoons drawn by Geoffrey Shovelton – a tenor we collaborated with on one of our tours – captures the essence of joy and warm spirit we aim to inspire with every performance.
“Thank you Maria, Glenn and Nick so much for yet another triumph. What a wonderful afternoon, such energy, joy and delight at being entertained and to experience live music and be part of an audience again.
We all enjoyed such a wonderful day, the setting was perfect and many of us took full advantage of the opportunity, enjoying walks around the beautiful walled garden and the woods before lunch in the café. Thank you Ken for such a warm welcome and to you and your team for working so hard behind the scenes to make sure everything ran smoothly and safely. The refreshments at the end set of the day off so well and encouraged people to stay and catch up with old friends again.
Thank you for such a wonderful and generous opportunity, our very own concert in lovely surroundings made us all feel very special. For many of our carers and people with dementia the last 18 months have been difficult, isolation, loneliness, stress and anxiety never far away, music has helped many get through some very difficult and dark days, and to be able to come together again now and enjoy your concert a true highlight and the beginning of a return back to ‘normal’ life and once again enjoying the things we all loves and enjoy.
We’ve all been talking about the concert this week and we very much hope we’ll be seeing you again in 2022, thank you all once again for a transformative energising and thoroughly enjoyable afternoon”
– Sarah Russell, Tibbs Dementia
“I just wanted to give a BIG thank you for your recent visits to our elderly frail tenants who live at Housing with Care schemes in Southwold Road and Albion Road.
Due to most of the local Elderly Day Centres closing down many of our tenants are not able to get out of the scheme. ( sadly many of our tenants have little or no family support) so we do what we can to provide stimulation and activities at the schemes for them. Most of the time this is by playing bingo, having coffee mornings, doing simple craft activities etc.
However now and again we get the chance for someone REALLY special to come and visit – and BOY is there a difference in the tenants during and after the show..
When you came and visited we had a tenant come that had NEVER attended anything before ( they heard the music and decided to come and see what was happening in the lounge- but have never been interested in anything before ) . We had tenants tapping their feet and singing along, and I even noticed that some of the tenants were dressed for the occasion – as in wearing their best outfits.
They really loved your show, were amazed at your wonderful outfits ( you had as many costume changes as you did at Tower of London – our tenants got EXACTLY the same show) and finally it was wonderful how you went round to each and every tenants and sang, and at the end said goodbye to each of them.
Even when you are long gone – the tenants are still sitting in the lounge, they have had a great time and do not feel the need to rush back to their empty flats Your songs are well chosen, the performance spectacular – thank you .
Thanks to Glen and Nick Too. ”
Yvette Harte,Social Inclusion Co-ordinator, London Older People Supported Housing
” 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. “
I would like to say a massive thank you to the Connaught Opera for performing at The Sunflower café on Saturday. From the beautiful voices, amazing keyboard and the glamourous outfits, everything was perfection.
The carers, people with dementia and staff cannot stop talking about the performance. With once person with dementia saying, it was the best show he had ever seen.
(Wandsworth Carers Centre).
” 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.
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. “
” 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. “
Our residents and staff were very happy with the performance of your team, some residents said it was just like concerts they attended in the past and would like for you to hold regular Concerts here.
- The costume changes were very much enjoyed, by the lady residents, however one man in particular look besotted/ mesmerised, staring at you just the same as he looks at his wife.
- The way you interacted with our residents was fantastic, you moved around the room making sure that all present were included in the performance, singing and movements included. it was as though you were being serenaded by our residents and our residents serenaded by you..
- Our residents were even given the opportunity to choose a song of their choice which you and the gentleman with you, sang together with our residents..
- Even after the Concert finished and you were out of the room changing into your own clothing to leave, you heard two of our residents singing and you came back into our activity room and sang a duet with each of them in turn.
- One of our residents when playing the organ, your organist/pianist come back after changing, amazed with what he was hearing, interacted with our resident on the organ.
If there is a possibility that Carlton Dene were able to have another Concert, we would welcome your team with open arms.
Carry on the good work and hope very much to see you in the near future.
” 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 “
” The service users really enjoyed the entertainment …they explained it was their type of music..They confirmed the music was beautiful “
” Fantastic. Some people who never smile had huge grins on their faces “
” The concert was engaging and entertaining. I look forward to having the group back to perform “
” …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 “
“Thank you so much for your beautiful performance today for our elders. The crowd may have been small but the music thrilled through the building and delighted us all. One gentleman, who had just happened along, said it had been wonderful and asked when you would be back; when we told him it was a one-off performance at this centre he said ‘So, I just got lucky? I’m so happy, I’ve had a really nice time. It was a real pleasure to have you here” – Holloway Neighbourhood Group
“I just wanted to take the time to say a huge thank you for coming over a couple of weeks ago, it was a truly fantastic show and our members are still raving about it! I have enclosed a couple of pictures taken on the day, we do have a few more but I believe that our lovely communications team are in the process of editing etc. Please do keep us up to date on any other community base projects/ events you may have coming, it would be great to work with you again.” –Amanda Bates Centre & Programme Manager Claremont Project
“I just wanted to say a huge thank you on behalf of all the 32 members of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Clover Dementia Café for the Connaught Opera’s brilliant performance at our last meeting last Sunday.
The clients responded so well to your warmth and the way you engaged everyone individually and together – I was delighted to see so many broad smiles and sparkling eyes, tapping feet, clapping hands and dancing shoulders. Everyone went home afterwards feeling relaxed, energised and with a warm glow (in spite of Storm Ciara!).
We’re very lucky to have benefited from what you do, and very grateful, particularly for your all giving up a Sunday to make our day – please do pass my thanks to the others as well. I look forward to bringing you all back to the Café another time in due course.”
– Andrea Owen | Side by Side Coordinator
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your concert at our place. It was so amazing seeing all involved and happy”
– Antonela – Nightingale House, Richmond
A bit about our funders...
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.
Our special thanks to the Heritage sites throughout England, who have generously hosted concerts in their magnificent settings.
- Age Concern and Help The Aged
- Age Concern (Camden, Southwark, Bexley)
- AGE UK
- Alnwick Lions
- Ampersand Caterers
- Arts About Wandsworth
- Arts Council England (GFTA, London Arts and North East)
- Awards For All
- Barchester’s Charitable Foundation
- 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)
- City of Westminster (My Westminster)
- Citywest Homes
- Community Foundation (Tyne & Wear and Northumberland)
- Concertina Charitable Trust
- Cripplegate Foundation (Islington Community Chest)
- Culture Seeds – Mayor of London (Groundwork London)
- EC1 NDC – Community Chest & Festival Funds
- Edward Harvist Trust (London Borough of Brent)
- Elmbridge Borough Council
- Essex Community Foundation (Alston Family Charitable Trust)
- Foundation Derbyshire – The Ashby Family Fund
- 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
- Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity
- Heart of England Community Foundation
- Hertfordshire Community Foundation
- Heron International (Gerald Ronson)
- Hertfordshire County Council (Adult Care Services)
- Kilfrost, Haltwhistle
- Knebworth House – Hertfordshire County Council (Adult Services) & Quantum Care – Joint Initiative
- Lauder and Rees
- Link Age Plus
- 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 Enfield
- London Borough of Hackney (Discover Hackney)
- London Borough of Haringey
- London Borough of Harrow
- London Borough of Havering
- London Borough of Hillingdon
- 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 Borough of Wandsworth
- London Catalyst
- London Councils
- Nonsuch Rotary (Sutton)
- Northern Rock Foundation
- Norton House, Victoria (Anchor)
- Olympic Lottery Fund (Transformers)
- Onenergy (Groundwork Islington)
- Paddington Rotary
- Quantum Care
- Richmond Parish Lands Charity
- Rotary Club of Alnwick
- Rowan Bentall Charitable Trust
- Royal Greenwich, Culture Tourism & Heritage
- Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames (Neighbourhood Fund)
- Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Arts Council
- RBKC Corporate Services Small Grants Fund
- Reading Borough Council
- RPLC Richmond Parish Lands Charity
- Sadlers Wells Theatre
- Servite Houses
- Sir James Knott Trust
- Sundial Link Age Centre, Peabody Trust
- Sutton Community Fund
- The Barnes Workhouse Fund
- The Bingham Trust
- The Bruce Wake Charity
- The Civic Pride Fund (LB Richmond upon Thames)
- The City Bridge Trust
- The Close Care Home, Abingdon
- The Concertina Charitable Trust
- The Foyle Foundation
- The Italian Consulate General
- The Maynard Hotel, Derbyshire
- The National Trust
- The Royal Star & Garter Home, Richmond-Upon-Thames
- The 29th May 1961 Charity
- The Tower Hill Trust
- The Wixamtree 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)