How the show went on a ‘Night to Remember’


IT was supposed to be a big, fun fundraising concert that brings the community back together after the silence of Covid.

A Night To Remember, hosted by Big Ian Donaghy and featuring his party band Huge plus guest artists, had already been postponed once, from February 26, and rescheduled for September 8.

Thursday’s event was to be the first time the fundraising musical extravaganza would have been held since February 2020 – just weeks before Covid hit.

What no one could have known was that Thursday would also be the day Queen Elizabeth II, our longest-reigning monarch, would die.

The York Barbican had already been transformed with video screens and lighting.

But shortly before the curtain spread that the queen had died.

The job of making the official announcement fell to the host of the night, Big Ian.

York Press: David HarrisonDavid Harrison

Big Ian Donaghy calls for a minute’s silence at the start of A Night To Remember

The audience fell silent when he took the stage.

“I have to announce that Queen Elizabeth II has died,” he said.

He then asked for a minute’s silence.

“I don’t care if you’re a monarchist or an anarchist,” he told the crowd. “Today, some people have lost their mother, grandmother or great-grandmother. To anyone who has lost their mother, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Royalty doesn’t protect you from that. Please let us have a minute’s silence.”

You could have heard a pin drop, said John Madison, who was in the audience to review the show.

Then, with the minute’s silence over, the 1400 strong audience applauded and the show began…

A house band consisting of the nine members of Huge, plus guests Simon Snaize, Kieran O’Malley on fiddle and Gary Stewart on percussion, fittingly opened with The Show Must Go On, a classic from rock band Queen.

The evening, brought together by musical director Geoge hall, also featured young musicians from the York Music Forum led by Ian Chalk, some of whom will be playing the Royal Albert Hall next month.

The cast on stage ranged from 13 to 83 with a set list from Diana Ross and Tina Turner to Elton John and Fleetwood Mac.

York Press: David HarrisonDavid Harrison

“Graham Hodge and Annie Donaghy melted hearts with delicate acoustic handling time after time,” said John.

“Boss Caine gave Dire Straits’ Walk of Life a country toe makeover.

“Las Vegas Ken returned, aged 75 with a new heartbeat, ready to take on the Barbican singing Wild Rover with violin wizard Kieran O’Malley.

“You could sense a family feeling for them on stage. This is a collective on a mission to make a difference and make a great noise together. Everyone sang backing vocals on every other singer’s songs.”

John described the concert – which was an annual event until Covid – as the ‘biggest dementia awareness concert in the UK’.

It was held to support four causes in the city which have had a ‘hard time’ due to the pandemic: St.Leonard’s Hospice, Bereaved Children’s Support in York, Accessible Arts and Media and a number of small dementia projects in the city, including garden clubs, bespoke art classes with Sue Clayton and the fully inclusive Singing for All Choir.

Big Ian admitted his heart was pounding as he stood up, announced the Queen’s death and called for a minute’s silence.

But after that it had all been about ‘York helping York’, he said.

“And we’ll be back next year!”



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