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Inspired by Italian Opera from the Balcony

Camilla Griehsel sings to residents and healthcare staff at West Cork Community Hospitals accompanied by Tess Leak on the cello from the hospital gardens in the June sunshine to break the monotony that can be caused by isolation.

Back in mid-March, residents on lockdown in Italy, protecting from the spread of corona virus awoke to Puccini’s famous Nessun Dorma as opera singer Maurizio Marchini performed from his apartment balcony. From Turin to Sicily balcony singers and musicians played in solidarity, sharing a message of hope against adversity across the globe.

Inspired by these incredible events, Arts for Health artist Tess Leak teamed up with West Cork based singer Camilla Griehsel to weave an aspect of outdoor live music into the Museum of Song Postal Project, to deliver a series of performances for the staff and residents outside the Community Hospitals in West Cork.

Camilla, born in Stockholm, Sweden studied at the prestigious Adolf Frederik Musik School, and has been singing to enraptured audiences since she was a small child. She is no stranger to the residents and staff of Schull Community Hospital, having performed there many times as part of the Arts for Health Programme with fellow West Cork based musician Maurice Seezer.

In her twenties Camilla fronted the U.S chart-topping Norwegian pop group ‘One 2 Many’, then abandoned pop music to study opera. Her many roles include performing the lead in the Yiddish production of The Dybbuk in Tel Aviv, and the lead, in Spanish, in Maria de Buenos Aires at the Cork Opera House.

Now in June, as the weather warms up and we travel along Ireland’s Roadmap to Re-Opening, we are able to realise the live performance part of the Museum of Song Postal Project, a collaboration between Tess and artist Sharon Whooley. Beginning in her home village of Schull, Camilla performed on Friday specially chosen arias alongside songs gathered by Tess and shared by residents as part of the Museum of Song Project.

We had a beautiful session with Camilla and Tess on Friday.’ described the A/Director of Nursing at Schull Community Hospital, Riosin Walsh  ‘A little breezy but very warm and sunny with glistening sea in the harbour as our stage backdrop. The residents were thrilled with the occasion. They emerged into the sunlight uncertain and very quiet you could hear a pin drop. When music started and Camilla sang that first beautiful haunting song I looked at their faces and they were so focused on her there was a sense of a new beginning almost. When she began singing Wild mountain thyme all the voices began to join in and so it went. They did not want the afternoon to end.
A very emotional experience for those of us who were fortunate to have been in attendance.
A last beautiful song smile by Charlie Chaplin prompted a wonderful story from one of our oldest residents.
My father knew Charlie Chaplin and he sent me a lovely birthday wish on my 8th birthday.
A very sweet thing for him to do.

A perfect end to a perfect afternoon…..Can we do it again soon please.

Thank you so much and to the arts for health team.
It is a pleasure to deal with you all and everyone is so giving of their time and talents.
Life has been made so much better for all of us staff and patients alike by the input from the arts for health team.

Accompanied by Tess Leak on cello, the two artists will  tour the gardens of Dunmanway, Skibbereen Community Hospitals and Bantry General Hospital this week and next.


Featured Photo credit: Richie Tyndall

other images courtesy of HSE at Schull Community Hospital