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Come play for us

The last hurrah – Fred Chell final outing with the Brainwave Singers. Photo: Daniel Hines.

It’s frustrating for both pianist and choir.

The pianist is Fred Chell. “Age is catching up on me.” He’s 77. “I rely on my memory to play well and that’s starting to fail a bit so it’s getting harder.”

The choir is the therapeutic Brainwave Singers, a special choir which uses singing to improve speech and communication in aphasia or stroke sufferers, and to delay neurological conditions like Parkinson’s.

But now Fred’s seven-year voluntary gig playing piano for the choir is at an end.

“I know it’s going to be hard to find someone of Fred’s calibre and commitment again,” says Brainwave Singers founder, BOPDHB’s Dr Robin Matthews. ”But it would be great if there is someone out there who feels they could help out.”

“It’s been a pleasure, they’re a great bunch,” says Fred.

And he hopes someone will be found soon to replace him, as helping people in this way was very fulfilling.

“I hope someone will pick up the reins and run with it. You meet some lovely people. I’d encourage people just to come along and see what it’s all about.”

A churchgoing friend, whose husband was a member of the Brainwave Singers, introduced Fred to the choir back in 2012.

“I went along to a session and they asked me to play a couple of tunes. That was apparently good enough,” he laughs. 

Fred, a retired computer programmer, took up playing the piano seriously in his early teens.

“My mother used to play piano by ear,” he said. “I asked her one afternoon to teach me, so she sat me down and showed me. I persevered with it and can even remember the first tune I learned, ‘It’s been a blue blue day’.”

Brainwave Singers founder and BOPDHB Audiology/Dietetics/NBHS/Speech Language Therapy Team Lead, Dr Robin Matthews heaped praise on Fred for his energy and commitment.

“Fred has been ever-present and ever-faithful, year-in, year-out. He’s been wonderful, given very generously of his time and I would like to thank him sincerely.

“The way he plays has given the choir energy and driven them along. He’s got a massive repertoire. He’s a pianist extraordinaire. He also very kindly helped me with my PHD research on the effect of choral singing therapy on Parkinson’s. We’re definitely going to miss him.”

So Dr Matthews is now putting a call out for a new pianist. Call him on: 027 326 1464.

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