Vascular surgeon Stephen Brearley has doubled as an amateur musician since childhood, playing the violin and piano and later conducting both in Cambridge and at the Middlesex Hospital, where he studied.
In February 2010 Freedom from Torture, the only organisation in the UK dedicated solely to the treatment and rehabilitation of survivors of torture, approached Mr Brearley and asked him to put together a charity concert. The surgeon garnered an ensemble of similarly gifted doctor-musicians from across Europe and the world, and the Doctors’ Orchestra was born.
Its first concert was such a great success that various iterations of the same ensemble have held an annual fundraiser for Freedom from Torture since 2010.
The 75-strong orchestra straddles the medical profession, from GPs to obstetricians and surgeons to psychiatrists, who have worked in the NHS.
Members reunite each year for rehearsals and performance. Raising funds for torture survivors is a key incentive to bring these skilled amateur musicians together.
In the words of his founder: “We all know from personal experience that doctors face demanding work pressures and difficult decisions on a daily basis. That’s why it is very restorative to have a parallel life in music, especially when we are playing for Freedom from Torture.”
Freedom from Torture offers services across England and Scotland to around 1,000 torture survivors a year, including psychological and physical therapies, forensic documentation of torture, legal and welfare advice, and creative projects, and by campaigning for their rights both nationally and internationally.
The 2018 Doctors’ Orchestra concert for Freedom from Torture will take place at Cadogan Hall on Monday 26th February, and will include Mozart’s stirring overture to his opera Don Giovanni, as well as Beethoven’s vivacious and sunny Fourth Symphony and Brahms’s youthful first piano concerto. For the latter, the orchestra will be joined on stage by award-winning pianist Jayson Gillham, whom Mr Brearley invited after attending one of his concerts, having appreciated his “big and muscular” style of playing.
The pianist virtuoso has worked with other amateur orchestras before, although he’s expecting this time to be much smoother sailing, as he knows that doctors are organised, time-conscious and used to teamwork.
Giacomo Vezzani from Freedom from Torture