July 4, 2008

Viva ‘Our Clare’ – a Real Star

Charity concerts can be heart-warming in more ways than one. Last week, I had a wonderful evening at Clare Teal's gig at Invention Studios, raising funds for Myeloma UK, the bone marrow cancer charity.

The word 'star' is banded about all too freely, but long-time Bath resident Clare is a true star - with brass knobs on.

What a fantastic, smooth-as-silk voice, soaring to the heavens on classic songs such as Night And Day, ably assisted by her friend, Carole Bond.

I also loved her version of Neil Sedaka's Breaking Up Is Hard To Do and the haunting Everly Brothers' number, Love Hurts.

And who would have thought that a concert in Bath's Lower Borough Walls could come to a thumping climax with Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas. The earth moved, and it wasn't the SouthGate construction work.

How strange to reflect that, back in the 20th century, Clare's mugshot featured alongside mine in a personnel display panel of the Chronicle's 7 Days weekend supplement. I was writing travel, she worked in the advertising department.

Only one of us became a star. What an extraordinary road she has travelled: from a Windsor Bridge office to singing in front of 47,000 at Proms in the Park.

She remains gloriously down-to-earth, judging by chats with the Invention Studios' audience between songs, full of home-spun Yorkshire warmth, wry humour and calling everybody "love".

I admire stars who remain grounded and remember where they came from. When fans and showbiz flunkeys are telling you how fabulous you are, it must be hard not to turn into a diva or egomaniac.

Bath has been lucky with celebrities who either forged their fledgling careers here or moved to the city after becoming famous.

Over the years, many have done sterling work for local causes and charities. The late TV host Leslie Crowther used to play in celebrity cricket matches and support charities in various ways.

Bath rugby legends such as Gareth Chilcott were often pushing over piles of pennies in pubs and boosting fundraising events.

Without any fuss and bother, writer Bel Mooney kindly opened her wonderful sculpture back garden the other week during Lansdown Open Gardens Day.

And you have to hand it to Bitton's Noel Edmonds for posing questions in a pub quiz and attending a recent school fete.

Writer Terry Pratchett and actors Clive Mantle, Stephanie Cole and Tony Head are just some of the other familiar faces that have helped local charities.

Clare Teal certainly did her bit last week. Mega-busy or not, she found time, along with her fabulous band, to sing for 120 lucky locals for a very good cause.

When stars make that sort of commitment, it should inspire us all to respond with some cash.

As the credit crunch bites, I expect charities will find it tougher, but we should still strive to give because people or animals in a much worse state need our help.

Looking beyond our own self-centred world and donating money for others makes us more human.

It also makes us feel good.

So I hope everyone will dip in their pockets during this weekend's Rec concerts, raising funds for the RUH Forever Friends appeal's pounds4.7 million target for a new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

If it's similar to a couple of years ago with Simply Red, Elaine Paige and Westlife, there should be a wonderful atmosphere around the city.

It was great to see families relaxing on Grand Parade, looking across the river to the big screen, and lolling on the grass in Parade Gardens enjoying a picnic and the fabulous sounds.

Even if we can't afford concert tickets, we can still enjoy the music and lob a pound or two in the fundraisers' buckets.

Charity, as the old saying goes, begins at home.

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