Singing a solo at a concert takes a certain amount of courage but even more so for 81 year old Ralph Davies who stepped forward to sing Ol’ Man River at a recent public concert despite living with severe breathlessness caused by Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Ralph, from Chesham, has been helped to live his precious life to the full by Dr Sharon Chadwick and the team from The Hospice of St Francis and performed his solo with the Chess Valley Male Voice Choir at St Paul’s church in Chipperfield on Saturday 18th May. He has been singing with the choir for nearly 20 years and was invited to sing a solo by the musical director Sheila Cornall, who felt his deep, powerful voice fitted perfectly for the 1927 Show Boat classic.
Ralph said, “Over the last few months my breathlessness has got so much worse and I can only walk 20 yards without stopping and am left exhausted afterwards. I thought my singing days were over particularly having just been in hospital last month with a bout of flu which left me extremely short of breath.
“However, I met with my consultant at the Hospice, Dr Chadwick and she convinced me that I would still be able to keep up my singing. I’ve been seeing her for the last couple of years to manage my condition and she’s said all along that I mustn’t give up singing as it’s something I love and has been my passion since I was very young. Throughout my marriage, I’ve sung in choirs and practised at home with my wife Elizabeth who often plays the piano at home to accompany me.
“Sharon has helped so much. She’s also balanced my medication to alleviate my fibrosis and catarrh and recommended I increase my oxygen intake in the days leading up to the performance. I’ve also attended some of the Hospice groups over the past nine months including the bi-monthly Pulmonary Fibrosis support group where I’ve met about 15 others with my condition and taken part in regular exercise classes. These Hospice groups have built up my strength and confidence.
“When I talked to Sharon about doing a solo I was a little apprehensive but she emphatically encouraged me to go ahead and I took her advice! I agreed to take on the solo, found my voice again and was able to sing the whole solo with surprising confidence. It was a very moving moment as I finished and I felt a deep joy and pride and couldn’t stop smiling – despite being a little breathless! I’m off to Gloucester Cathedral in four weeks to sing a lunchtime concert with the choir so there’s nothing stopping my singing now!”
Dr Chadwick, concluded, “I’ve been delighted to help Ralph. His story shows what is possible with the right support and motivation. He’s living his life, his way and still doing the things he loves despite his illness. His solo was inspirational and I’m sure anyone who heard it will be deeply moved at what he’s achieved.”