MUSICAL director Patrick McCarthy had an auspicious start to his career.

He was a young baritone who had just graduated from music college when he booked tickets to see Sir Thomas Allen perform with the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1974.

But as Sir Thomas Allen was singing cantata Carmina Burana during a live television broadcast, he collapsed and had to be carried off stage by members of the orchestra.

The entire performance came to a halt but Patrick stepped forward.

He made his way from the audience backstage and offered to sing the rest of the song which he had sung when during his studies.

And so he had an impromptu debut at the Proms, a moment which was to become the most notable moment in his career.

Patrick said: “There were about 6,000 people in the Royal Albert Hall watching and it was being filmed when it happened.

“After Sir Thomas Allen collapsed I told someone backstage I was a professional opera singer and I went up on the main stage and took over from him.

“When I got on the stage, the conductor Andre Previn thought I was the bearer of bad news to tell them Sir Thomas Allen had died but then I started singing the rest of the song.

“I had only been a student until about a fortnight before this happened, but it went very well in the end.”

Patrick received a standing ovation for his heroics which launched the start of a musical career spanning over four decades.

The 70-year-old, who lives in Colchester with his wife, Mary, has just retired from his post as musical director of the Harwich and Dovercourt Choral Society after leading it for 20 years.

He also founded the Colchester Bach Choir and Orchestra and is musical director of Ipswich Bach Choir and Chamber Orchestra, the Colchester Philharmonic and been the musical director of Witham Choral.

As well as these groups, he has conducted various East Anglian and German choirs and orchestras.

Patrick’s last concert with the Harwich and Dovercourt Choral Society was at St Nicholas Church in Harwich.

He said: “I have had a great time and have made a lot of good friends over the years.

“If you live somewhere like Colchester the reasons for going to Harwich can be limited and it was not until I was invited to the choir that I learned to love it.

“The town has the Electric Palace, the Kingsway Hall, St Nicholas Church and the Harwich Festival.

“There was a point that my wife and I loved it so much we nearly moved to Harwich.

“I am sorry that I am having to retire from the choir which I have enjoyed over the past two decades.”

But the father-of-two is not putting his baton away completely.

While Julie Harmer will take over his role as musical director of the Harwich and Dovercourt Choral Society, he will still continue to guide the other choirs under his remit.

Music is in his blood and is still coursing through prolifically.

  • The Colchester Bach Choir is performing tomorrow night with popular classics including Vivaldi Double Trumpet Concerto, Gabriel’s Oboe, Greensleeves, Queen of the Night, Zadok the Priest, Meditation from Thaïs, and Ave Verum Corpus. 

Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester
Tickets cost £12, or £5 (full-time education) from Red Lion Books or by calling (01206) 546202, or on the door. 

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