A 99th birthday is rather special, and Headingley Hall resident Len Bower’s daughter Jane wanted to find just the right present for her rather special Dad.
"Dad was a superb clarinetist and pianist with his own award-winning band," says Jane, who lives in Cambridge. "He is extremely musical and also registered blind, so I thought the best gift I could give him was a high quality concert."
Jane was very interested in Headingley Hall’s Wishing Well scheme, where residents can ask for a reasonable wish to be granted. She sent in a wish on behalf of her Dad, asking him to be taken to a concert, but then could not find one in Leeds on the correct date, June 5th.
"I approached Amelia, my Dad’s student befriender, herself a clarinetist," says Jane. "She suggested a gifted fellow student from Leeds University
, Hannah Williams. Despite having her final exams the week before Dad’s birthday, Hannah happily agreed to play a programme specially chosen for Dad. I decided to hold the surprise event in his church, Headingley St. Columba
, and the congregation was wonderful, organising tea, a large cake and keeping it all a total secret from Dad!"
The plans were not without hitches – Jane had to liaise with everyone long distance, and a week before the concert, the pianist had to withdraw. "Luckily Hannah found another student, Chris Pelly, who stepped in to accompany her," Jane says with relief.
The day came and Jane got the congregation silent while her partner Alan wheeled Len in at the church doors. A sudden rendering of ‘Happy Birthday’ from everyone was quite a shock for the birthday boy! All was explained to him and a truly beautiful concert followed. It included Hannah and Amelia playing The Flower Duet and the sun shone radiantly through the church windows as they played.
Afterwards, Len was presented with a huge birthday cake and made a brave attempt at blowing out the two 9-shaped candles on it, though they didn’t seem to want to be extinguished!
Hannah, Amelia and Chris stayed to talk to Len about their music.
"It was a very precious and unique occasion', says Jane, 'and it all worked out beautifully after weeks of preparation. My particular thanks go to the musicians, the church organisers and Headingley Hall
for their contribution towards the event through the Wishing Well scheme.’
Happy 99th, Len!