NHS Beliebers: meet the Choir members you can hear on ‘Holy’
Belinda, who is known throughout the Trust simply as B, is an Advanced Clinical Practitioner who specialises in helping mothers-to-be through the early stages of pregnancy. Alongside her medical work, Belinda makes sure her patients are treated with kindness and is a dedicated charity fundraiser for them and others. She recently led on a campaign with early pregnancy loss charity CRADLE to provide ‘comfort bags’ to anyone who has experienced such a loss. Belinda said: “As a kid growing up in Aldershot, if you’d have told me I’d be recording vocals at Abbey Road for a superstar like Justin I’d have never believed you! I’m so grateful for this opportunity to celebrate the NHS.”
Elizabeth is a Paediatric Physiotherapist and new mother – she was on maternity leave over Covid, and wanted to give a special thanks to all of her Trust colleagues and everyone in the wider NHS for the unbelievable efforts over the pandemic. “Being able to sing with the Choir is a privilege and such a pleasure,” said Elizabeth, “and hopefully we can bring a message of joy to others!”
Midwife, keen runner and superstar soprano Lizzie also joined the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir just after the 2015 number one, and has been a mainstay ever since. She said: “I am excited to be involved in this project as it’s five years since the number one (I joined the choir just after that so got to meet Justin!) It is amazing to be involved with something so prestigious and it’s incredible to have Justin’s support for the NHS.” Not content with a potential Christmas number one, this year has also seen Lizzie complete her first ultramarathon, running the Capital Ring challenge all around London – 120km in just 22 hours and 18 minutes!
(l-r): Zoe Davies, Elizabeth Nicklin and Lizzie Farrant
Zoe Davies is one of our northern contingent here in the Choir – she hails from the small Yorkshire village of Great Smeaton (population: 187). She worked her way up to her current position of Consultant Endocrinologist (a specialist role helping people with problems with their glands or hormone levels) – and now works primarily on one of Whipps Cross Hospital’s Covid wards. But Zoe found even more than a medical career at Lewisham and Greenwich – as a founder member of the Choir she was a big part of the last Christmas number one (her voice opens the 2015 Xmas hit ‘A Bridge Over You’) and she even met her husband Tom Jackson through the Choir!
Rachael is an example of the incredible flexibility that our colleagues have shown over the Covid pandemic. An Upper Limb Physiotherapist by trade, Rachael worked all over Queen Elizabeth Hospital and out in the community during the pandemic, including a spell on one of our ‘proning’ teams – making sure severely ill Covid patients were in the right physical position to improve their respiratory outcomes. Rachel joined the Choir just after the 2015 Christmas number one – “one of my first gigs was meeting Justin Bieber!” said Rachael. “It's five years since Justin gave the push for the Choir to get the number one; it's the right time to show how the Choir has evolved and developed lifelong friendships.”
Caroline is the tireless force behind our Trust Choir, and has been there since the beginning. As the co-ordinator, she is the person who organises and rallies the troops for every performance, including the FA Cup Final at Wembley, appearing at Glastonbury, and events for staff and our local communities. She runs the Choir’s social media, was a big part of ‘A Bridge Over You’ and the Christmas No 1 campaign in 2015, and is front and centre in the attendant photoshoot with our good friend Justin Bieber! During Covid, Caroline ensured that the Choir had some great charity projects to work on, with the Met Police Choir, learning disability charities and more.
Somehow she still has the time to be one of our most experienced physios – in her job as Highly Specialist Children's Physiotherapist she supported children with disabilities and their families virtually throughout lockdown, and is happily now back to seeing children face to face again. Caroline said: “We really can’t thank Justin enough for the chance to work with him on this wonderful, uplifting song. We’re so proud to represent Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust and all the heroes in the NHS.”
Anyone familiar with the Choir’s version of ‘Something Inside So Strong’ will recognise Brenda’s beautiful alto voice as the opening soloist. A paediatric nurse who works out in the community, Brenda was born in Trinidad, making her one of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust’s many international clinical and support staff. She hopes that this beautiful new version of ‘Holy’ “brings happiness and love to those who listen, in this trying time.” Her voice appears on Christmas number 1 ‘A Bridge Over You’.
When not delivering gorgeous vocals (she often performs a solo in the Choir’s many performances over the years) Petrina helps deliver virtual clinics and other technological advances to our patients, as an IT Project Manager. “The pandemic just highlights how technology can provide benefits to our patients and save time/money,” she noted. Petrina developed her voice at the famous BRIT school in London, and is another Choir member featured on original Christmas number one ‘A Bridge Over You’.
Like Rachael, British-Ugandan Consultant Rheumatologist Pamela was also redeployed as Covid hit. “During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic I was asked to move from rheumatology to work as a Consultant Physician on a 30-bed COVID medical ward for three months.” As an auto-immune and musculoskeletal expert, Pamela also provided input on many of the treatments tested and used for Covid, as many of them like steroids and hydroxychloroquine are common in her field. In her ‘normal’ line of work, Pamela has a special interest in helping people with lupus, the autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system starts to attack the patient’s own body tissues. Pamela’s daily duties also involve supervising doctors in training, to form the next generation of this country’s healthcare.
Caroline was another member of the Choir who not only sang on the Christmas number one in 2015, but also met Justin Bieber in person when he handed them their trophy. A Theatre Nurse in non-pandemic times, Caroline took up the call to work as a Critical Care Nurse to help deal with Covid – going from caring for those before/during/after surgery to facing the coronavirus head-on in our intensive care unit. “It’s very different working in ITU,” said Caroline, “but it's very rewarding. I’ve been on the front line in crisis.” Caroline (or just an affectionate “Duffy!”, as the Choir has come to know her) was born and raised in Greenwich, one of the three boroughs covered by our Trust.
The youngest member of the Choir at 29, George was born in St Albans but grew up in Den Haag in the Netherlands. The Specialty Trainee in Obstetrics and Gynaecology brings a great energy to the group to go with his vocals – witness his unique hand washing-based dancing in the Choir’s recent video version of ‘I Can See Clearly Now’. His work on the frontline during Covid meant that he spent the pandemic helping to bring new life into this world – while there has arguably never been a more challenging time to give birth, George has helped many women through it with his trademark positivity.
When not fulfilling his role as an all-too-scarce tenor and male voice in the Choir, Mazin is a GP registrar, and worked hard with his surgery to keep consultations as normal as possible given the challenging circumstances of the pandemic. He also covers on-calls for our acute hospitals (University Hospital Lewisham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich). Maz joined the Choir four years ago, and is another keen runner in his spare time.
Tenor voice Tom has had a very busy year, in part due to his role as a trauma surgeon keeping these vital procedures going as much as possible. But his personal life has also been eventful – he married fellow Choir member Zoe Davies (see above) in a virtual ceremony in April, news of which made it all the way to Channel 4’s The Steph Show! Tom’s year has been rounded off with his contribution to ‘Holy’ – he says of the song: “This track is really about hope for me: hope for the vaccines against this virus; hope for when we will be able to hold our love ones again; hope for our country and our world to heal the barriers that have been placed between us this year. Personally it was also a reminder that leaning “on God”, as Justin wrote in his lyrics, is a way to find support and comfort in hard times; with strength to persevere against even the toughest of situations.”
On 15 March 2020, Swedish-born Anaesthetic Registrar Johan was one of the first clinical members of the Choir to have the vital duty of intubating Covid patients at the start of the pandemic – and on a subsequent placement in intensive care he cared for some of the people struck hardest by the virus. So we were delighted to hear that, with this single, a very special dream came true: “As a singer and guitarist, it was one of my biggest wishes to visit Abbey Road Studios, let alone record there!”
Graeme works in the Children’s Emergency Department as well as the Hippo ward, where children are looked after and made to feel comfortable as they are assessed for further treatment options. “Of course, our job was made so much harder by Covid,” said Graeme. “It has helped so much that we’ve received hundreds of beautiful drawings and letters from children – they’ve been a wonderfully calming and healthy influence on us as we continue to give 100% to help our young patients get better.” Graeme and just a few of these letters and drawings can be seen in the aforementioned ‘I Can See Clearly’ video, recorded a few months before ‘Holy’.
Bolton native and retired Immunisation Clinical Coordinator Mike has now departed the NHS after decades of service, and has in his own words spent the pandemic “staying safe, keeping family safe and doing everything I can promoting confidence in vaccinations and personal responsibilities.” The 67-year-old is perhaps an unlikely Bieber fan, but couldn’t praise ‘Holy’ enough: “The message that holding someone is such a special thing that it’s almost a holy experience is so resonant with current difficulties and personal challenges. There are some special people I miss terribly and it’s them I hear on the lyrics "hold me, hold me"…” Mike is another ‘A Bridge Over You’-era member!
Emmet is another longstanding member of the Choir – he featured on the Gareth Malone TV series ‘Sing While You Work’ that kick-started the group in 2012 and he provides one of the deep bass voices on ‘A Bridge Over You’. Emmet works on the financial side of the NHS (he’s a Senior Contracts Manager). In doing so, Emmet helped with an important part of the NHS Covid response – helping to organise and mobilise the additional capacity needed across the capital’s hospitals. “This is a great opportunity to celebrate the NHS after the incredible effort from everyone during 2020,” said Emmet. “I’m beyond delighted to be a part of it.”
Andre is another example of the amazing role that our support staff play in the NHS and have played throughout the pandemic. He works in Medical Records as part of the team that makes sure that your health and treatment history reaches our medical colleagues exactly where and when they need it. Andre joined the Choir just after the number one, and is delighted to be a part of this new project, and hope it encourages people “to be a part of the love in this world today.”
Phil’s acquaintance with the Trust Choir began just after the hit Gareth Malone show The Choir: Sing While You Work ended, to ensure that the Choir not only survived, but thrived – it’s his and his brother Pete’s arrangement of Coldplay and Simon & Garfunkel’s music that led to the Xmas chart-topping ‘A Bridge Over You’ in 2015! The Choir has made great use of Phil’s inventive and dynamic arrangements – as well as his enthusiastic and comprehensive instruction, tuition and support – ever since. Phil is a professional Musical Director and singing teacher based in southwest London, and lives with his wife Lucy, a sound engineer for LJ Studios who has also lent her expertise to the Choir on occasion.