Concordia Foundation

Building bridges through music and the arts

History of Concordia


Performing the children’s concert at the Brancovenestri Sanatorium on Concordia’s first visit to Romania, August ‘92

This period heralded a journey that culminated in Concordia becoming a registered charity in 1995. It began with their work in Romania in the early 1990s. In 1992, Anda Anastasescu, Director of the London Schubert Players, invited Concordia to perform Shakespeare in Love – an anthology of verse, prose and music, devised by Gillian Humphreys and Edward de Souza – at the Silvestri Festival in Tirgu Mures. In 1994 at the invitation of the Romanian Ministry of Culture, performances were given at castles in Peles, Bran, and Arcos and at Tescani, the former home of the Romanian composer Georges Enescu, near Bachau. A hallmark of Concordia’s work is its holistic approach, Young Audiences concerts were given in orphanages throughout Romania, which were endorsed by Mother Teresa. Concordia also arranged for The Vox Humana Choir from Transylvania to sing at St George’s Church, Hanover Square, en route to the Festival at Llangollen in North Wales. It was at this concert that representatives of Hextall Erskine Solicitors suggested we become a registered charity.


Dorina Cret and members of the Cantorino Children’s choir from Zalau, Romania meet the former King and Queen at Chiswick.

Lord Menuhin, our first patron extended a welcome for ‘the success of this inspiring tour’ as the Cantorino Children’s Choir from Zalau, Romania, began their series of concerts under their musical director Dorina Cret, with pianist Christina Para at St Michael’s Church in Bedford Park. The children were overjoyed to be sharing platforms with Corina Belcea violin and Ekaterina Apekisheva piano. They captivated audiences at successive concerts during a successful tour of concert halls and churches in South Wales, the Midlands and at St Peter’s College, Oxford and St Paul’s Church, Bedford. Arrangements had been made for them to stay with families in Chiswick during their first few days in London. This the children found very exciting—particularly their occasional visit to McDonald’s for lunch! They gave their final concert for the Hutterian Brethren in Robertsbridge, who had given them hospitality on their last night in England. A high point of the tour was meeting the former King and Queen of Romania in Chiswick and singing with Gillian on a BBC radio programme.


Members of the London Schubert Players and their Director Anda Anastasescu prior to their concert at St Giles, Barbican.

In the summer of 1996, university students Camilla Ferrier and Catherine David travelled to Sfintu Gheorghe, Romania, on the adventure of a lifetime. In association with the Foundation, books donated by their universities were given to the library at Shakespeare Kingdom House, a centre for Shakespeare studies, where the girls assisted Director Attila Nagy in cataloguing the library. They also taught English and directed plays for children and teenagers at a local secondary school, coordinated by teacher, Agnes Fazakas. For the Foundation’s concert at St Giles Church, Barbican, on 11th December 1996, Gillian commissioned Chiswick composer, Cecilia McDowall to compose a new cantata Every Winter Change to Spring. The concert was enthusiastically received by an appreciative audience, many of whom have remained loyal supporters of the Foundation. Neil Thompson conducted the London Schubert Players, artists included Gillian Humphreys soprano and Jeremy Huw Williams baritone. Guest artist Anda Anastasescu played Bach’s Piano Concerto In F Minor.


John Wilson conducts the Sinfonia of Westminster at rehearsal for the Concordia international gala showcase, 2 October 1997

John Wilson conducted the Sinfonia of Westminster at St John’s, Smith Square. Andrew Haveron violin played the Waxman ‘Carmen’ Fantasie and sixteen soloists, including Colin Lee tenor, Alfie Boe tenor and James Rutherford bass performed Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music. Gary Ryan guitar played Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo; and Bobby Chen piano played Capriccio Brillante by Mendelssohn. Filmed extracts from the performance can be seen on our early promotional video by visiting Vladimir Ovchinnikov, winner of the 1987 Leeds Piano Competition, played for the Foundation at a gala reception at Philips International, London. A year later Concordia presented The London Schubert Players String Orchestra, conducted by Gheorghe Costin in the Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle as part of the 1998 Windsor Festival. Gillian sang Four Shakespeare Songs by Cecilia McDowall, Yuri Zhislin violin played Rondo in A for violin and strings by Schubert. The production was supported by Bernie and Rosemarie Smythe.


Gillian, Sarah Barnes, and members of the children’s orchestra of the Muñoz Molleda Conservatoire La Linea, Spain in 1998.

Our Mediterranean Journey concert at the Purcell Room, supported by the Spanish Embassy, featured world premieres of Two Shakespeare Sonnets by Delfine Colomé and Fantasie on Carmen by Costas Fotopoulos. Soloists Sarah Barnes cello and Jesus Carrasco Barea piano, invited us to initiate an educational project in La Linea, Andalusia. We held concerts in Spain, with the Samantha Newbold piano quartet and Phuong Nguyen classical guitar. We also gave masterclasses with the Children’s Orchestra of the Muñoz Molleda Conservatoire, which was founded by Sarah Barnes. Later, whilst touring South America, Concordia was invited to give a Gala Concert for Save the Children Argentina at the British Embassy in Buenos Aires. Later we gave a concert tour of Switzerland, the highlight of which was our performance at the Dolder Grand Hotel, Zurich. Our early sponsor, Tan Sri Dato’ Francis Yeoh Sock Ping, invited Gillian to appear in a Millennium Concert of Celebration, in Kuala Lumpur, with Michael Ball and Italian flautist Andrea Griminelli.


The cast of Cavalleria Rusticana grouped around the display board at the Opera House in Ho Chi Minh City.

Our first opera venture to Vietnam was to stage performances of Cavalleria Rusticana with the Saigon Concert Orchestra. Conducted by Graham Sutcliffe MBE, the Gala at the French built Saigon Opera House was presented by Gillian Humphreys, with performers Tarsha Cole soprano, Robert Millner tenor, William Allenby baritone, Ann Atkinson and Heather Shipp mezzo-sopranos. Directed by Sarah Chew, the production was supported by the Italian Chamber of Commerce. It was the first Western style opera to be presented at the Opera House since its renovation in 1995. Later that year the Foundation flew to the US to present Patti, Patti, Patti, a musical biography of 19th century diva, Adelina Patti, at the Thomasville Arts Festival as guests of Mrs Teresa Brown. We were lucky to have survived the tropical storm en route! This musical evening was also performed at the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington. Directed by Michael Fry, the production featured Gillian Humphreys, Ian Puleston-Davies actor, Erika Nastro violin and Vadim Peaceman piano.


The Sicilian chorus of Cavalleria Rusticana, comprising local singers and actors and Europeans living in Ho Chi Minh City.

The launch of the Concordia concert series in Hanoi was a great success. We gave two concerts with the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Graham Sutcliffe: Cliodna Shanahan aged 17 from The Yehudi Menuhin School, played the second Piano Concerto by Shostakovich, and Daniel Vaiman, Royal Academy of Music, played the first Piano Concerto by Beethoven. By a strange coincidence, the grandson of the late Lord Menuhin was travelling in Vietnam at the time and attended the concert and met the artists. In June the finals of the English Singers and Speakers Competition, held at the Purcell Room, was won by Rodney Clarke baritone. Other winners included joint winners Heather Withers mezzo soprano and David Clegg counter tenor (1999),Tessa Spong soprano (2000) and Howard Wong baritone (2002). The Concordia Foundation was pleased to support the prize for five years and our dear friend Catherine Lambert, a tireless supporter of the prize, helped tutor many young singers and musicians in their speech and presentational skills.


This year saw the world premiere of Love from Ivor, written and directed by Richard Stirling. No other popular composer has captured the spirit of romance quite like Ivor Novello; and the glamour of his dancing years was captured in this review with Gillian Humphreys, Michael Chance and Johanna Byrne. Performances were given at Ely Cathedral, Linbury Studio Theatre Covent Garden, Walter Reed Theatre NY and at the British High Commission in Sydney. At the invitation of Nina Kuzma-Sapiejewska piano, Concordia was invited to appear in the gala inaugural concert of the 4th International Chopin & Friends Festival, which was held at the Polish Consulate General in New York. The Concordia artists at this gala occasion with Gillian Humphreys were Yuri Kalnits violin, Costas Fotopoulos piano and Magdalena Makowska-Grzyska violin. Thanks to Richard Nevill, Chairman of the Friends of Concordia, a Jubilee fundraising dinner and recital was held at HM Tower of London. Concordia presented excerpts from Gilbert & Sullivan’s Yeoman of the Guard.




Performances of Shakespeare and Love an anthology of verse, prose and music, devised by Gillian Humphreys and Edward de Souza took place on Shakespeare’s birthday in Southwark Cathedral and later in the year at the Globe Theatre, Bankside. The Albion Bridge, compiled and directed by Michael Fry, included Shakespearean scenes performed by a group of young actors Emily Bryant, Matthew Pattimore and May Phillips, at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. The production formed part of the Foundation’s concert series International Journeys Through Music, which focused on musical influences from Asia, Africa, Celtic and Slavonic regions, and the final concert brought music from Spain, France and the Americas. These concerts were endorsed by Dame Evelyn Glennie, Robert Tear, William Dalrymple, and the late Richard Hickox CBE. Young musicians featured in this series included Sarah Field saxophone, Sergey Rybin accompanist, Milos Milivojevic classical accordion, Dmitry Rasul-Kareyev clarinet and Morgan Szymanski guitar.


In November 1838, Frédéric Chopin arrived in Majorca, accompanied by the writer George Sand and her two children. It was hoped that their six-month sojourn in the monastery at Valldemossa would improve Chopin’s health, but eventually it did otherwise. The lovers’ relationship was famously recorded in Sand’s journal Un Hiver à Majorque. Excerpts from this and the dazzling music Chopin composed on the island comprise Winter In Majorca. Written and directed by Richard Stirling, it was initially presented by Gillian as one of Concordia’s regular National Portrait Gallery recitals. Supported by Eugenie Maxwell, a performance took place at the ancient Carthusian monastery of Valldemossa, high in the Tramuntana mountains, with olive and almond trees, as part of a gala weekend for Friends of Concordia. The Concordia International Ensemble invited the young virtuoso French pianist Emmanuel Despax to play the part of Chopin. Other performers included Carol Carey actor as George Sands and Monika Sawa  soprano.


The 10th Anniversary Gala Concert, given at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in February 2005, celebrated a decade of ‘promoting harmony between different cultures, nurturing and supporting young performers’ (Carole Radford, Concerts and PR Manager). The New Professionals Orchestra was conducted by Rebecca Miller. Danny Driver played Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. Sixteen young professional singers, including Pumeza Matshikiza and Lukasz Jakobczyk performed A Serenade to Music by Vaughan Williams, conducted by John Wilson. For our production of Pagliacci at the Hanoi Opera House, directed by Jeff Clarke, we sourced Vietnamese artists as well as costume and set designers. The Orchestra was once again conducted by Graham Sutcliffe and members of the cast included John Rawnsley, Fiona Hammacott and James Cleverton. ‘For those who came to fill the opera house, it will be a memory deeply-held and unforgettable. We have touched hearts and made many friends. And that is surely what the Concordia Foundation is all about’ - Jeff Clarke.


Our first Concordia Foundation Young Audiences production A Journey to Meet Peter and the Wolf, was held at Wilton’s Music Hall. The aim of the Foundation is to bring together children of all nationalities and faiths and to inspire a new generation of musicians and artists. Subsequent productions were: The Rhythm of Life – Our Musical World, The Spotted Cow and the Pianoforte, Street Cries of London, Around the World in 60 Minutes and most recently A Journey to Meet the Orchestra. The productions combine music and the visual arts and encourage the children in the audience to participate. Artists paint on large canvases whilst musicians engage the children with mesmerising storytelling, live music and singing. The presentations have delighted and hopefully inspired children to continue to explore and enjoy all forms of art and music. One child said to Gillian, ‘Thank you Miss. It was much better than a DVD!’ A special book on Concordia Young Audiences, designed and illustrated by Pauline Rafal, is now available.


Gillian returned to Siena, scene of her early operatic studies, with Friends of Concordia to present a Gala concert for world peace. The Still Voice Sings Within was performed at the early 19th century Teatro dei Rozzi at the invitation of the Comune di Siena. The audience was engrossed by a rich and varied tapestry of verse and music: Celtic melodies, American spirituals, Hungarian czardas, Argentinean tangos and music from Purcell to Gershwin. Anna MacDonald, director of the London Film Academy, has always encouraged the Foundation to build a cultural bridge with Poland. Having already given a workshop on music in film at the European Film Week in Warsaw, Gillian returned to Poland in 2007 to join the panel of the 6th International Stanislaw Moniuszko Vocal Competition. Concordia shares the belief that music can speed recovery and the summer of 2007 saw the first of a series of lunchtime recitals presented in the Atrium of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, together with music and art therapy classes in the children’s wards.


On a number of occasions we have been invited to present programmes for Renewal Arts at Mountain House, the magnificent conference centre overlooking Lake Geneva at Caux, Switzerland. The Foundation’s concerts there continue to celebrate the universal spirit of music and the arts. In 2008, Concordia’s artist in residence, Rosie Mayhew, illustrated the musical themes by painting on canvas during The Still Voice Sings Within. ‘The Concordia Ensemble thrilled the audience as the painting and the progression of the music fitted beautifully together…’ (Kathleen Dodds, Renewal Arts). Concordia’s educational work is truly international and our visit to Cuba in 2009 centred on exchanges of artwork between Shapla Primary School, Tower Hamlets and Escuela Manuel Saumell, Havana. We held masterclasses at the Palacio del Teatro Lyrico and a concert at the Teatro Amadeo Roldan. In exchange, we invited Dario Martin piano to London to audition at music colleges, to appear at the Chelsea Schubert Festival and to give a recital at St James’ Church Piccadilly.


Our first Concordia Foundation Artists Fund concert in association with the Worshipful Company of Musicians was held at the Wigmore Hall. The winning artists were Julia Sporsén soprano, Ashok Klouda cello and Joseph Middleton piano. Following a joint EDF/Concordia project, developed by artist Rosie Mayhew, ten designs by Tower Hamlet schoolchildren were selected to decorate a building off Brick Lane. In May, at the invitation of the Vietnam National Opera and Ballet Company, we presented the Verdi Requiem at the Hanoi Opera House, with soloists James Cleverton baritone, Edward Hughes tenor, Alexandra Cassidy mezzo soprano and Joanna Weeks soprano, with conductor Graham Sutcliffe. At the NPG, Concordia artists explored musical journeys taken by Stravinsky, Ravel and Philip Glass and Vivaldi to Verdi at St Martin-in-the-Fields in July was our most recent showcase featuring VOCES8 amongst many international artists. At the invitation of the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Michael Bear and the Lady Mayoress, we look forward to presenting cultural initiatives on Mayoralty tours planned for Vietnam, China and Kenya in 2011.


At the invitation of the Lord Mayor of the City of London (2010-2011), Sir Michael Bear and our patron Lady Bear, we become partners in the Mayoralty’s strategy of using cultural diplomacy in support of the City of London and their global agenda.

Concordia presented an opera and ballet gala at the famous Opera House in Hanoi; leaving a legacy in our support of the Vietnam Artists’ Performing Arts Fund with conductor Graham Sutcliffe, whose objective is to support local artists, composers and choreographers with performance opportunities in Vietnam. The Concordia International Ensemble in Vietnam comprised Tanya Cooling soprano James Cleverton baritone Christopher Steel tenor and Tim Brice composer.

In April 2011 the Concordia Foundation annual prize-winners concert in association with the Worshipful Company of Musicians at the Wigmore Hall featured Laura Mitchell soprano (Concordia Founder’s prize), Charlotte Forrest piano (Concordia Serena Nevill prize) and Slava Sidorenko piano (Concordia Barthel Prize). In China with our performance of ‘River Cities’ London – Shanghai, we were able to create a major bridge linking musical performance and the visual arts. We are grateful to Huilin Proctor and Lord Clement Jones for their support. Conductor Ben Ellin, Christopher Steel tenor Gareth McLearnon flute Irmina Trynkos violin Norah King soprano and Rosie Mayhew scenic artist joined Gillian Humphreys, artistic director on this exciting project.In September 2011 our visit to Kenya was challenging and inspirational. We were able to donate 500 Life Straws, providing clean drinking water; working in schools, orphanages and slums with our Young Audiences programme, donating 100 fifes giving young children the chance to discover their musical voices in their own community. We are grateful to Gareth McLearnon flute for his valuable help in this project and the Concordia International Ensemble included Abigail Burrows flute Satoko Fukuda violin and Jeremy Silver conductor.At Wilton’s Music Hall our Young Audiences presentation ‘The Pied Piper of Tower Hamlets’ was devised and presented by Tanya Cooling. Regular concerts at central London venues provided platforms for many young singers. At the National Portrait Gallery we presented ‘Ballad Songs and Snatches’ – a tribute to the Gilbert and Sullivan exhibition in June and ‘Sophisticated Ladies’ (cello ensemble) in December. Our Candlelit Christmas Concert took place in December at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden.