KEITH Roe’s Christmas Musical Cavalcade takes to the City Hall stage once more this Sunday and it will be cause for greater celebration than usual as Keith reaches a personal milestone he set himself 25 years ago, to raise £100,000 for charity.
Born and bred in Sheffield, he has been active on the city’s music scene since the 1970s and formed the Fellowship Theatre Company, which puts on the musical cavalcades in the mid-1980s.
Its first performance was in 1985 at the University Drama Studio and, says Keith, “raised £233 for the Heart Research Foundation, chosen as a result of my father dying from an unexpected and sudden heart attack at the age of 58.”
Following the concert he set himself a target to raise £100,000 for charity and, finally achieving it 26 years later, this year’s beneficiary will be Sheffield Hospital Trust’s Heart Research Programme.
The first Fellowship musical cavalcade was in December 1991 at the City Hall where it has continued to play to sell-out audiences ever since.
Keith says: “This year’s concert is very special to me since the money raised should see the Fellowship Theatre Company reach £100,000, the target I set in 1985 which was worth more than it is today.
“To reach this target is testament to a very large number of people who have helped me along this demanding, and yet very satisfying journey.” Not that fiscal achievement means the end of the journey.Cavalcade-goers need not worry as Keith says he has every intention of continuing it.
“Let’s see how long we can keep going. Who knows, with a fair wind, good health and fortune, and the generous support of the people of Sheffield and surrounding districts, we may make £100,000 seem a mere bus stop along the way.”
Apart from raising money for charity, his sole purpose behind the cavalcades which combine opera, operetta and songs from West End shows with chart-topping hits, all-time favourite items and a sprinkling of seasonal stardust, has been to provide high quality musical entertainment.
For the best part of the last 15 years, Gary St John, Sarah Buckley, Richard Carlin, soprano Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs, tenor Martin (Neil) Dunn, plus the Abbeydale Singers, have ensured that quality along with a 60-strong Fellowship Orchestra, many of whose members travel from destinations across the UK, and a Fellowship Choir drawn from South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire
As Keith says: “It all comes together in a day, with musicians and singers coming from as far away as Scotland and Wales, and then finishes at the end the day, many of us not meeting again until the next concert.”
All the performers give their services free and numerous local charities, large and small, have benefited over the years and because this year’s Cavalcade is so special to him, after the interval he has chosen five songs he describes as particularly pertinent.
Torna a Surriento (Come Back to Sorrento): “From an early age,” says Keith, “I can remember ‘mum’ describing Italy to me, having toured there with the Ivy Benson Band, and this was a song she always referred to as special.”
(His mother Margaret, née Chappell, played double bass in the Ivy Benson All Girl Band in the late 1940s and, on December 21, reaches the age of 87).
No One But You, Brian May’s eulogy to Freddie Mercury: “The lyrics will always remind me of my father.”
You Raise Me Up, based round the tune of Danny Boy: “This song is for parents, including, of course, my own mother and father.”
Ivor Novello’s We’ll Gather Lilacs: “We all have someone who has meant, and possibly still means, the world to us but are not currently in contact with. This song is for them.”
Climb Every Mountain, “is for all of us, today and every day. No matter what situation we find ourselves, we can find our dream in the end and help others reach theirs.”
There looks to be an invitation to join with We’ll Gather Lilacs, while other numbers to whet the appetite include I Got Rhythm, Nessun Dorma, Fish Gotta Swim, Mamma Mia! as well as medleys from both My Fair Lady and Les Miserables.