Littleport pianist to perform concerts at Chatteris and Ely

Despite suffering from Asperger's, Sophia has made highly acclaimed concert tours of Europe, China,

Despite suffering from Asperger's, Sophia has made highly acclaimed concert tours of Europe, China, Canada and The USA. - Credit: Archant

Two performers with extraordinary life stories – including one from Littleport – will perform in Chatteris and Ely in May.

Yaffa Yarkoni was one of Isreal's most beloved singers and bravest soldiers. Neil was invited to sha

Yaffa Yarkoni was one of Isreal's most beloved singers and bravest soldiers. Neil was invited to share the stage with her, in celebration of The Isreali - Jordanian Peace Accord. He remains the only non-Muslim, non-Jewish pianist granted this honour. - Credit: Archant

Neil Hilgrove Colledge, of Littleport, and Sophia Grech will perform at a series of concerts and recordings to celebrate 20 years working together.

The pair will perform at St Peter & Paul’s Church, Swaffham on Saturday May 12 at 7.30pm, and at St Augustine’s Church Hall in Cambridge on Saturday June 2 at 6pm.

The shows will feature music by Brahms, Granados and De Falla.

Neil will also give a solo recital at The Church of St Peter & Paul in Chatteris on Saturday May 19 at 7.30pm.

Neil Hilgrove Colledge.

Neil Hilgrove Colledge. - Credit: Archant

The evening is to celebrate the Royal Wedding and will include Haydn’s English Sonata, an arrangement of God Save The Queen by Claude Debussy with Grieg’s Wedding Day to finish.

Neil is a serving member of The Ely Cathedral Business Group and will be giving his fourth solo recital at the cathedral on Thursday May 24.

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The concert is on the 16th birthday of his son William, who is a pupil at Highfield’s School.

Neil is married to Alison and lives with his family in Littleport. Their oldest daughter Lily is a pupil at Ely College and recently joined their trip to Kenya, doing voluntary work at a school in Nukuru. Their youngest daughter Bryony turns pages at the concerts. Two children are studying piano and their youngest son Conrad was baptised by The Bishop of Ely in 2011.

Neil was discovered by the distinguished South-African pianist Yonty Solomon, who reviewed his work at The Farnham Maltings.

His first engagements were at The Dorchester in London, and 50nchtime recitals for The National Trust playing the largest collection of period pianos in Europe.

Neil has played in Cambridge at Downing College, Kings College, Magdalene College and at The Fitzwilliam Theatre.

In 1996 Neil was presented to His Royal Highness The Duke of Wessex at Jesus College.

Neil was helped further in his career by the author and playwright Sheridan Morley and the actor Sir Christopher Lee.

Neil was also mentored and encouraged by Asa Albert Jolson (Al Jolson’s son) who invited him for afternoon tea at The Waldorf whenever he visited London.

Neil was invited to accompany the legendary Isreali singer Yaffa Yarkoni during The State Banquet marking the Peace Treaty between Jordan and Isreal.

Neil remains the only non-Muslim, non-Jewish pianist in history granted this honour.

The event marked a turning point in his career. He was soon after granted two private audiences with Sir Sigmund Sternberg, introduced to two State Presidents, four British Prime Ministers, playing for four kings and for His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent.

He was recently honoured with a blessing from His Excellency Bhai Sahib Muhinder Singh, a venerated spiritual leader of 27 million Sikhs, personal friend to three serving Popes, a colleague of The Dalai Lama and the only Sikh in history to be awarded a Knighthood by The Vatican.

Neil described their meeting as one of the greatest moments of his life…

Sophia Grech’s life story, meanwhile, is astonishing. She suffered decades of ridicule and misery during her school years and adult life. By her own admission, Sophia made no friends at all and understood very little. She was finally diagnosed in her mid 40s with aspergers syndrome.

Despite the confusion surrounding her life, Sophia never let go of her dream to sing, completing gruelling tours of Europe, Asia, America and Canada.

Her family are from Malta and she was invited to sing for The State President Edward Fenech Adami at San Anton Palace.

In 2017 Sophia was made an international ambassador for autism awareness.

She was conference keynote speaker, and also sung for an audience of 5,000 people at the Royal Albert Hall.

The concert at St Augustine’s in Cambridge on June 2 will be followed with dinner at Charlie Chan’s on Regent St. The cost for anyone interested in joining the group is £25 per person.

Neil will be giving a series of informal concerts at Oxburgh Hall, Holkham Hall and The Grand Arcade in Cambridge.

Entry to church concerts are free with retiring collections and refreshments will be served.

There will also be the opportunity to meet Neil and Sophia after the performances.