Oh! What a night! I returned home from the Trevereux Manor Gala, my brain buzzing, and feet tapping.

This was my first experience of the event and I can’t wait to buy tickets for next year. It was truly a magnificent evening in every way. The setting is perfect of course – a vista of rolling hills Surrey farm-scape with Canada geese sweeping by, putting any Red Arrow formation to shame.

Most of us brought our own picnics – and boy did I have picnic envy, spying some very fancy offerings: multiple salads, soft fruits, cheese boards and pairing wines. Indeed, this was a very professional affair. With a full stage and seating, we were entertained at intervals by the Orpheus students, Sir Richard as compere and auctioneer, the Joe Stilgoe Band, and comedian Jason Manford.

As ever I was deeply moved by the students’ performances. Not only are the students supremely talented (Charlotte masterfully hitting top F in ‘Queen of the Night’ and Angus reducing his audience to tears with ‘Bring Him Home’), their joy in what they do shines through. The short and snappy number ‘What we do at Orpheus’, together with ‘I believe I can make a difference’, proclaimed a message of strength and resilience from our young people, and ‘It isn’t easy being me’ reminded us why the likes of Orpheus needs our continued support. 

Personally, it was a moment to reconnect with Orpheus. Covid has meant that I have been supporting the college from ‘afar’. I’ve missed seeing the students milling around the courtyard, laughing and joking, and experiencing first-hand how the teachers encourage and support them to believe in themselves. I often feel that supporting Orpheus is in many ways a privilege.

And on the note of support, there was a marvellous array of auctioned promises. Sir Richard was obviously taking on Jason Manford as the comedy act for the evening, wittily geeing us up to dig deep, and indeed people were incredibly generous – I so wanted the Biltmore Hotel package of lunch at Gordon Ramsey’s Savoy Grill with best seats in the house at a London show, or even the 4 nights at a Tuscan Villa!  

As the sun faded and the evening cooled, Joe Stilgoe’s band took to the stage. I wouldn’t call myself a typical jazz aficionado, but I’m now following the band on Instagram hoping to be able to see them live when they next perform in London; they are talented musicians and great performers, Joe being the jocular front man. They played a number of classics – ‘Cabaret’, ‘Puttin on the Ritz’ and some contemporary classics like Joni Mitchel’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ the lyrics of which seem particularly prescient surrounded as we were in bucolic paradise. Jason who has a beautiful deep full-bodied voice joined them for such classy classics like ‘Well Did You Ever’, the perfect foil for his hilarious take on life in Lockdown and family trials and tribulations. He’s won another fan to his Absolute Radio show! 

As I skipped back to my car, humming to myself and chuckling at remembered jokes, I reflected on the work entailed in such a successful evening – volunteers, staff and performers. I have seen how hard the fundraising staff have worked, with the help of volunteers and friends of Orpheus, to replace Covid related lost revenue. Seeing the students perform is the fuel that keeps the engine running.