by Emyr Wyn Jones (2017/18 alumnus)


“I love to sing Meatloaf. Really loudly.”

“I’ve never heard Opera before, but I think I like it.”

“I’ve waited almost 30 years to hear some of those songs live...”


I’d like to take you down to the classic, well-loved far coast of Great Britain, to the gorgeous sunny haven of Eastbourne...

Eastbourne, even for a Thursday, was abrim with late-summer holiday makers, travellers and cyclists. It’s in a quiet, discreet part on the coast of this popular area of East Sussex where a simply unique and incredible place sits: The Chaseley Trust. This incredible house was donated in 1945 for ex-servicemen with spinal injuries incurred during the war. The idea was simple - to give soldiers the opportunity to live a full and active life instead of being defined by their disabilities. Roll on some seventy years, and it’s still as relevant and important as it’s ever been.

Arriving after a morning walk along the beach (and even a little dip in the sea), I was fortunate enough to be offered a tour around the facilities. While constantly taking care not to be too intrusive, it was the welcoming air and engagement of the staff, the volunteers and especially the residents that made me feel totally at ease.

We had been invited to perform by NOS Chief Executive Emily Gottlieb for a very special event. For the past 20 years, a close friend of Emily’s, Pip, has suffered with degenerative multiple sclerosis and now resides in this care home. Her life was built around, and her passion and work were all within, classical music. A musician first, she then directed her energies to managing, arranging and coordinating performances around the world. We wanted to give Pip, Pip’s family and the extended Chaseley family an afternoon to remember – the opportunity for our trio to come down and perform a short concert with some opera, some song and some old favourites went down even better than we had hoped!

On meeting Pip that afternoon, it was clear that the excitement and joy of having been able to arrange something of this nature was overwhelmingly special. And so too was the concert itself. Ranging from the Magic Flute to Figaro with some Spanish song and Rodgers & Hammerstein thrown in for good measure, it really was an opportunity to showcase what alumni from the NOS can deliver, as well as to highlight what the afternoon should have been about – put simply, people enjoying our music, joining in and completely forgetting about everything else.

It is perhaps something of a cliché to say that it was a humbling experience. It was, however, arguably one of the most significant and rewarding afternoons I have had in my singing career. To be able to meet and share stories with these incredible people - some of whom are on unimaginably difficult and astonishing journeys – was amazing. One gentleman mentioned how much he loved Meatloaf and however difficult his journey was, to be able to wake up and shout something from Like a Bat Out of Hell was a real delight (apparently, his carer even donned a wig some time ago to allow him ‘meet’ the “It’s all Coming Back to me now” singer!)

The National Opera Studio website reads:

We aim to make a significant contribution to the opera ecology and the wider creative and cultural life of the UK

While this is more commonly a way for us to be seen performing in various theatres and schools for outreach projects, I believe we in our sector sometimes shy away from certain performance opportunities for fear of difficulty, or indeed for lack of knowledge. I’ll always welcome any excuse to be reunited with my former NOS colleagues; this one was a true joy from beginning to end. The work the Trust undertakes and, from what I understood during my visit will develop across the next few years, is vital to giving these extraordinary people a real opportunity at life. For more information, please visit


Image Credit:  2017/18 alumni Florent Mourier, Lorena Paz Nieto, Emyr Wyn Jones, and the residents, staff and guests of Chaseley. © Chaseley Trust 2018