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A Boy Named Alex


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I hope everyone watched the excellent documentary in Channel 4 about 17 year old Alex Stubbs, who suffers so terribly from Cystic Fibrosis.


It was quite a revelation, as good documentaries should be, on so many levels.


I was stunned by the quality of the music department at Eton College; even though I did enjoy a day there once, when I got to play all the organs. Pierre would be in seventh heaven.....an old Dutch 18th C organ in the school hall, the little Snetzler in the chapel, and of course, the big 4-manual Hill as restored by our hosts.


David Goode was seen wandering about and even seen presenting a birthday cake to the boy wonder Alex.


The focus of the documentary was a performance of the Bach Magnificat, with full choir, orchestra and an audience of 500 in the school chapel, which Alex Stubbs rehearsed and conducted himself. That ANY school choir and music department could undertake such a challenging work, was really quite something, and what parts we heard in performance, certainly sounded very acceptable indeed.


Of course, being what we are, we all like a good story and a tear-jerker, and to see the unfortunate Alex suffering so much in and out of hospital, was just agony. To witness his enthusiasm on the "good days" was also to witness an exuberance and innate musical genius of extraordinary magnitude. In some ways, both were a privilege and an insight.


Of course, I was aware of Cystic Fibrosis as an ailment, but I learned much about its terrible effects and long-term prognosis. I had to admire the way Alex Stubbs just coped with it, and almost seemed to brush the problem aside much of the time.


Having been offered a Choral Scholarship to Cambridge and a place at the Royal Academy, were it not for this terrible disease, Alex Stubbs would have a certain and brilliant future ahead of him. As it is, he has a sword hanging over him, the very real possibility of quite a sudden end, and a 50:50 chance of long-term survival if a lung-transplant becomes necessary.


It is very easy to get emotional about this sort of thing, but it is a part of life which many have to suffer. However, all credit to Channel 4 in making something of an off-beat, none main-stream documentary. If it helped the cause of Cystic Fibrosis research, it will have been a beneficial undertaking.


In many ways, I found myself reminded of Paul Whittaker MA.,OBE, who heads "Music for the deaf" and holds the ARCO. Alex Stubbs is now suffering hearing-loss due to the vast aount of medication he is obliged to consume. Paul was another who battled with this terrible affliction and triumphed over it, and it was something of privilege to give him a bit of a lift at the age of 16, when I asked him to accompany a choir at a York Minster mid-week Evensong many years ago. We communictaed with a radio link and the CCTV, through which he could feel the vibrations and watch the conducting. He played without fault, and never heard a single note of it!


I'm sure everyone on the board would echo my feelings, by wishing young Alex Stubbs the very best for the future. At the age of just 17, he has achieved an enormous amount and has already made his mark.


Being able to sing lustily, blow an instrument or hear the notes seems to be such a basic right, yet for some musicians, it is not.



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Guest spottedmetal



It's nice to see someone posting about him here - he has lessons and inspiration for us all. Even today I found myself picking up a tennis ball in a new light . . . More than just a superlative musician!


Best wishes


David P

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A remarkable lad indeed. Thank goodness Eton has had the foresight to accomodate Alex's particular needs and enable him participate in the school's activities as far as is practical. For those students lucky enough to know Alex and perform alongside him, I am certain that he will be an inspiration throughout their own lives. I felt inspired, and had only shared an hour's television with him.

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