In the Spotlight – Emma Clements
Emma Clements, aged 30, joined LCV back in 2014. London-born; she now lives in Brentwood, Essex, with her husband, Mike, and is embarking on an exciting career change! Although Emma’s future looks rosy; her recent past has been a tough and emotional journey. Which makes London City Voices even more significant and special to her. Here is Emma’s story:
“Towards the end of 2007 my mum lost her balance in the kitchen and fell; ending up in hospital with a broken hip. This occurred the day after the death of my beautiful grandmother, making it a devastating time for my family. More tragically, it turned out that the broken hip was the start of a long line of symptoms for my Mum, culminating with her being diagnosed with Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) at the youthful age of 63.
I was just 23 at the time – still finding my feet in the world. It was difficult to come to terms with a degenerative disease and to understand this barely-heard-of condition. In that I was not alone – only a tiny minority of health professionals had come across it. I don’t think I truly accepted the diagnosis and didn’t really want to know what the future would hold for Mum, especially when I witnessed her swift decline, with sad markers such as her becoming wheelchair-bound.
Feeling the need to do something, I decided to apply to run the London Marathon in 2012, alongside my boyfriend Mike. I am definitely not a runner but I felt safe in the knowledge that there is only a 1 in 10 chance of being accepted anyhow. Amazingly we both got a place! So it was set; I would run the marathon and raise money for the MSA Trust, who were being so supportive to both my Mum and Dad through the whole process of learning and living with the condition.
Sadly at the beginning of 2012, at just 65, my mum passed away peacefully in her sleep. My world crumbled, but with the support of everyone around me – my Dad, Mike, my sisters and my family and friends – they made sure that I kept on the right track…including the running track! Training for the London Marathon took on a new significance and made me yet more determined to complete the course in memory of my mum. It took a lot of strength to keep going, but on 23 April 2012 I was so proud to complete it. I think I was just numb afterwards and didn’t know how to react or feel, but I knew that my mum was with us in spirit. To add to the whirlwind of emotions, later that evening Mike proposed to me! I had just enough strength left to say yes!
In 2014 I went with my Dad to the ‘Service of Light’ at St Paul’s church in Covent Garden, arranged by the MSA Trust to remember those who had died from the disease. When I arrived I spotted my colleague, Susan Mison, in the choir. Which was a surprise to me as I had no idea that she sang! It was such an emotional service and I remember thinking how beautiful this choir – London City Voices – was sounding.
I have always been fond of singing and performing. I was in my university choir; I had been part of a theatre school and had taken singing lessons and exams. I had even sung with the London Philharmonic Orchestra through my school choir. But sometimes work and other life duties take precedence, which makes fitting in hobbies a challenge. However, when Susan said I should come along to a choir rehearsal (and afterwards to the pub), I made no excuses and found the time to go. It was so fantastic and the warmth and acceptance of everyone, including Richard, meant I was hooked! It was my new family.
At first, I found it very emotional to be singing. When we were learning Fix You by Coldplay (a song that was written by Chris Martin for his wife, Gwyneth Paltrow, after the death of her father) I would cry in rehearsals! But – such is the therapeutic power of singing – jump forward a year and I was asking Richard if I could sing a solo for my mum at the next MSA Service of Light. I chose to sing ‘On my own’ from Les Miserables, one of my parents’ favourite musicals. I was really nervous, but also elated knowing that somehow my mum had led me to be part of such a wonderful choir and given me the opportunity to perform again.
As part of my new-found confidence, and through wanting to explore further my creative passions, my next move was to go part-time at work in order to take a year’s upholstery course at Shoreditch Design Rooms. Now I’m in the process of setting up an associated business, specialising in chairs, soft furnishings and other handmade products. Coincidentally my first client has been the same Susan from choir! (I upholstered her mother’s much-loved Danish mid-century dining chairs.)
This year there was no Service of Light, so the choir supported the MSA Trust at the London Marathon instead. As you can imagine, I am so proud to be part of a choir that supports a charity that is so close to my heart. It is now five years since my mum passed away; and when I ran the London Marathon for the MSA Trust. It felt serendipitous to be supporting them again, at such a personally significant event, through my wonderful choir!
Singing has been a kind of therapy for me that has allowed me to express emotions and build new and wonderful friendships. I’ve realised that, no matter how much hurt and pain you feel in losing someone, it is the support and friendship of those around you that keep you moving forward and strong. I know that there is always going to be a special person missing in my world, but as Coldplay’s Fix You lyrics say:
So if anyone out there is in need of some singing therapy, but are feeling nervous about joining a choir …if you never try you’ll never know…So, just give it a go!”
You can check out Emma’s upholstery new business here
And find out more about the MSA and/or donate to them here
All studio photography by Eleanor Marriott Others from Emma’s personal collection