The History of Voices for Hospices

Voices for Hospices was conceived in 1989 by Sheila Hurton, to raise vital funds for, and public awareness of, the Princess Alice Hospice in Esher by staging a single “Come and Sing” concert.

Since those early days this initiative gained pace to become a global event.

The aim of the Hospice Movement is to bring care, freely, to all who need it, whether as an in-patient, day patient or at home. The concept of a nationwide simultaneous singing event as a means of raising money to help achieve these aims was enthusiastically supported by hospices throughout the UK. The first “same day, same time, same music” concert took place on 5th October 1991, under the banner of Voices for Hospices. There were 113 UK performances of Haydn’s Creation and the event was sponsored by Scottish Mutual Assurance. These concerts attracted the support of BBC Radio 2 and other BBC and local radio stations, and were a great success in terms of  funds raised and publicity achieved for local hospices.

The sponsorship of BT plc for three years from 1994 enabled this simultaneous singing event, now with either Handel’s ”Messiah” or “Hallelujah Chorus” as its focal point, to grow far beyond anything originally  envisaged. A feature on BBC’s “Songs of Praise” in October 1996 contributed to a more than doubling of UK performances to 319, ensuring that most areas,  and therefore most hospice and palliative care units, were included in the event. Coverage by the media both at home and abroad grew significantly. The 1997 VfH concert also attracted the Patronage of HRH Duchess of Kent.

By the Millennium Voices for Hospices had grown from one UK event in 1991 to 312 performances in over 40 countries. These figures reflect the appetite and enthusiasm for an international event which unites and encourages those working in palliative care, and creates new opportunities both to raise funds and increase awareness and understanding of what they do. In some participating countries, where there are  few hospices and palliative care units,  they reported that the Voices for Hospices project helped lessen their isolation and drew much needed attention to their work.

Voices for Hospices now takes place every two years around the globe on World Hospice and Palliative Care Day – on the second Saturday of October. Sadly since the death of Sheila, its inspirational founder, the VfH movement has lost some of it’s original focus but it is still in the hands of an enthusiastic and willing band of supporters across the five continents.

The VfH Choir has been set up to build on existing VfH support and help re establish the ideal of voices joining together in support of the Hospice Movement.  Our first re-stimulating  of this ideal took place at Kempton Park Racecourse in 2015, where we attracted over 1500 singers and audience. In 2017 we held  VfhChoir concert at Eastleigh Football Club. These massed Come and Sing performances have been great fun, good music, fine performances and new contacts made. Plus we have raised over £45k for our nominated hospices. We have truly been raising our voices to raise awareness and funds for our hospices.

The performance on October 12th 2019 will enable people to sing the same work, at the same time and in the same place to raise money for the following Hampshire hospices:  Countess of Brecknock, Countess Mountbatten, Naomi House and Jacksplace, Oakhaven, Rowans and St Michael’s, and the soon to be opened Winchester Hospice. Rather than the usual small choir singing, we are encouraging hundreds of singers to again join us.

The Voices for Hospices custom of lighting a candle at the start of the proceedings and all reciting The Hospice Poem will be continued as part of our ‘Come and Sing’ performance. This focusing of everyone’s attention on the main aim of the day is always a truly amazing and moving moment.

This poem was written by a patient at a children’s’ Hospice in Russia, built after the Chernobyl disaster. The child’s name has been lost over the years, but we thank them for their words.

Our performance on 12th October will take place in Winchester Cathedral. With Health and Safety issues we can not have as many participants as we usually do, hence the increase in ticket price! However, to hear our fine bass soloist Sir Thomas Allen in the title role of Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” will be worth every penny!

Thank you for supporting this Worldwide Project.