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While 2020 has been plagued with so much uncertainty, we were recently reminded of the power of music when we met Covid-19 survivor and former boy soprano from North Queensland, Graham Brasch and his wife Glenda.

As life-long opera lovers, Graham planned a surprise trip to New York for his wife Glenda on their 50th wedding anniversary. They managed to see only a handful of the performances they had tickets for before Covid-19 saw the cancellation of all remaining productions at The Metropolitan Opera. The couple swiftly returned to Brisbane, arriving home just before Graham fell critically ill. He spent the next five weeks in intensive care at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, including his 77th birthday.

Mr Brasch revealed the virus attacked every organ in his body including his kidneys, heart and lungs. His family was told by medical staff on numerous occasions that the virus could kill him but he made a remarkable recovery, leading to him being dubbed “The Miracle Man” by hospital staff.

After watching Mr Brasch’s story on Channel Seven news, we organised a special ‘pop up aria’ as a belated congratulations for their wedding anniversary.

‘This is a complete and unprecedented surprise. Thank you so much, I am very moved,’ said Mr Brasch of the performance.

‘Opera brings so much pleasure to my family. It is the one true expression of human emotion. The culture of music is the one language that should bring people together and more people should be listening [to opera]!’

For the performance recorded in the couple’s home, Opera Queensland Young Artist, Rebecca Cassidy and Head of Music Narelle French performed ‘How can I keep from singing’, a hymn by American minister Robert Lowry.

‘I was so moved by Graham’s story that when Opera Queensland suggested performing for he and Glenda I couldn’t resist,’ said Rebecca.

‘Music helps us express ourselves often more than words alone. As part of my time as Opera Queensland’s Young Artist, I have been afforded so many opportunities to help the company share the wonders of this incredible art form while developing my craft.’

Graham continues to recover while looking forward to making it back to the opera to see the Opera Queensland Chorus, which he describes as “world-class, best in Australia by far”, back on stage in 2021.

You can enjoy this special performance below.

Opera Queensland 2020 Young Artist Rebecca Cassidy and Head of Music, Narelle French perform ‘How can I keep from singing’, a hymn by American minister Robert Lowry.

The American folksong, known by its uplifting final line, has been performed by a wide variety of singers including Enya, Janis Joplin, Eva Cassidy and Pete Seeger during the folk revival of the 1960s.

Lowry also wrote the original hymn of ‘At the River’ which became a beloved, iconic favourite in its arrangement by Aaron Copland. US based artist Paul Whelan performed ‘At the River’ for An Aria A Day 11 July.