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Monday, February 20, 2017
Cardinal Cormac hits the right note at Night Under the Stars
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¬†Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor has a glittering and eminent future in front of him as a concert pianist when he steps down as Archbishop of Westminster. He accepted an invitation to play at "A Night Under the Stars", the annual, star-studded, fundraising evening for The Passage, held in Methodist Central Hall Westminster, on Wednesday 7 November. The charity, that works on behalf of homeless people, was set up by his predecessor, Cardinal Basil Hume OSB, more than 25 year ago. Cardinal Cormac chose Schubert's Marche Militaire for his first public performance at the piano in more than ten years. He was introduced to the audience during the seventh gala event by the former BBC television news-reader Martyn Lewis. The president of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, now aged 75, played the piece as a duet with Lucy Parham, one of Britain's finest pianists. Afterwards, she was fulsome in her praise for him. "Cardinal Cormac played with a lot of energy and passion. He was fired-up," she told me during the post-concert reception held in the magnificent surroundings of the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace. Lucy Parham first came to public attention on winning the 1984 BBC TV Young Musician of the Year. Since then she has performed extensively throughout the UK and in Europe, South Africa, the USA, Canada and Russia. She said: "I don't normally play duets with people but when asked if I would play with the Cardinal on behalf of The Passage, I jumped at the opportunity and thought it most exciting." Then with a characteristic smile, she added: "Perhaps Pope Benedict XVI will be my next duet partner!" Cardinal Cormac revealed that he and Lucy had only rehearsed the piece once together. He said: "It was on the stage in Westminster Central Hall at 2 o,clock this afternoon. Before that I had practiced the piece on my piano at Archbishop's House almost every day for a week." Asked if giving public recitals might be something he would do for his retirement, Cardinal Cormac replied: "It might be, you never know!" During the concert Cardinal Cormac paid tribute to Sister Ellen, Chief Executive of The Passage, and everyone connected with charity. He said: "The Cathedral is the centre of the prayer life of the diocese. How appropriate that The Passage, the Catholic centre for homelessness, is situated nearby in Victoria." Sister Ellen explained how The Passage successfully helps homeless people get off the streets and back into society with renewed self-respect and dignity. She mentioned the poignant personal story of a homeless person who was helped by The Passage. She said: "That man now has a job and somewhere to live. He recently came back to visit us and helped with a project because he wanted to give a ittle something back. He's here in the audience tonight." Staffed by a team of paid and volunteer workers, the Passage, which is the largest homeless project in London helps more than 250 men and women each day offering food, hot showers, clothing, advice and support. A six-strong team of Street Link workers make contact with those sleeping rough in Victoria. Passage House has hostel accomodation for 48 people. Montfort House, has 16 self-contained studio flats with staff support for those preparing for independent living. The centre has to raise in excess of £1.5 million pounds a year on top of the £1.8 million pounds given by the government, in order to balance its books. Peter Sheppard of Sheppard Day, Chairman of the Organising Committee, told the audience that more than £120,000 had been raised in sponsorship for the event before the sale of tickets. He thanked Barclays and KPMG, the two main sponsors for their continued support. The next Night Under the Stars will be held at the Royal Festival Hall on 2 December 2008.
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