Posted on Nov 19, 2021
Christmas is calling – so what better time of the year to help a particularly good charitable cause?
Folk here are being asked to support the Fetal Medicine Foundation, a registered charity that aims to improve the health of pregnant women and their babies through research and training in fetal medicine.
A Christmas Carol Concert will be held on Sunday December 12 at 5 pm in Brussels – and all the proceeds will be going to the charity which, like most others, has suffered financially as a result of the ongoing health pandemic.
The Foundation, with the support of an international group of experts, has introduced an educational programme both for healthcare professionals and parents.
In the last 20 years, it has supported research and training in various areas through grants to the tune of more than £23 million. The Foetal Medicine Foundation Belgium is based at the Queen Fabiola Children's Hospital Brugmann, to help the work of Professor Jacques Jani, a specialist in neo-natal care, concentrating on prematurity. Prematurity is responsible for more than half of all neonatal deaths; advances in neo-natal care have considerably improved survival of extremely premature infants, but a significant risk of handicap and disability in survivors remains,with an associated social and economic burden.
After four years at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven Prof Jani spent a couple of years at the King’s College Hospital in London until, aged 36, he returned to Belgium.
It is hoped the concert, at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, will raise much-needed funding for the Foundation.
Dirk Boiy, an oboist who graduated from the Antwerp Konservatorium, is the choir director and conductor for the concert which will feature a range of traditional festive carols to get people in the mood for the Christmas season.
After spells with the Opera Orchestras of Gent and Antwerp, Dirk became conductor of the Kempens Symphony Orchestra and later studied with Sir Simon Rattle, the world famous UK conductor, who said of him "Here is a man who is obviously full of music.”
Sir Simon added, “He is a sensitive, intelligent and well-prepared musician. He deserves - as much as anyone I have met - to have an enormously successful conducting career ".
Kiwi Mary Gow is the concert’s assistant music director and pianist.
Mary studied for five years on a Belgian Government Scholarship to the Royal Brussels Conservatorium (in Flemish) gaining First Prizes and Higher Diplomas with Distinction both in Piano and Chamber Music.
Her other passion is the Children's Charity Christmas Concert, The Snowman.Judge Ian Forrester is the master of ceremonies at the event, the ninth time he has filled the role.
Making a special guest appearance will be Athens-born Fotini Athanassaki, a Mezzo Soprano, who has been collaborating with the Greek National Opera since 2011.
She is currently employed at the Innsbruck Opera in Austria.
The summers of 2012 and 2013 participated in the "Festival of the Aegean" and the Greek Opera Studio in Syros, where she performed with the Padardzhik Symphony Orchestra (Sofia) and the National Symphonic Orchestra of Ballet and Opera of Tirana.
Mary told this website, “Given that we were not able to donate anything last year (2020) and that Professor Jani relies totally on charitable donations, we are appealing to people to dig deep and support him.”
Tickets for the concert at the Royal Brussels Conservatoire at 30 Rue de la Régence in Brussels, are €20 for adults and €15 for kids under 14.
Meanwhile, preparations are well in hand for another festive show, The Snowman - Children's Charity Christmas Concert 2021 on Sunday December 5 at 3 pm and 5.30 pm. This also features Dirk Boiy and Ian Forrester, both of whom have an amusing comedy routine. The musicians in The FairyTale Orchestra are all current or former soloist instrumentalists in La Monnaie (Section principals).The pianist is Mary Gow.
The story of the Snowman is about a small boy who, having built a snowman, goes on wonderful adventures during the night meeting up with Father Christmas. There are moving pictures, narration and a live orchestra. Tickets are €20 and €15 (Child under 12).
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