A North Wales schoolgirl who moved doctors and nurses to tears when she wrote a song to say thank you for looking after her is to star at a concert in aid of a child safety centre.
Gracie Mellalieu, 12, who has an extremely rare condition called Morquio syndrome which affects only 3,000 people worldwide, was over the moon to be among the headline acts at the annual Christmas concert to raise money for the Talacre-based centre, DangerPoint at St Asaph Cathedral on December 13.
She will be sharing top billing with a quartet from NEW Sinfonia, the flagship orchestra of North Wales, and also on the programme will be the acclaimed Chester choir Dee-Sign which performs in British Sign Language.
The annual event in the run up to Christmas is one of the biggest fundraisers for DangerPoint. Over the last two years the concerts have netted a combined total of more than £3,000 to support its award-winning work.
Gracie celebrates her 13th birthday just a few weeks earlier, on November 23, and says doing the gig is the best way ever to start her teen years.
She is one of the biggest fans of DangerPoint, an innovative activity centre near Talacre beach, which educates more than 7,000 young people a year about ways to stay safe.
It is Gracie’s favourite place to go for a day out.
“I love it there. I’ve been about 10 times. I’d go every week if I could,” she laughed. “It’s just brilliant that they asked me to help them fundraise.”
Gracie, of Mynydd Isa, near Mold, is the only child in Wales diagnosed with Morquio Syndrome – an inherited disease which attacks the metabolism.
Her condition causes intense pain in her joints, muscles and back, and it can restrict her breathing. It affects only about 3,000 people worldwide and means she cannot produce the enzymes needed to break down materials her body cannot use. She relies on cutting edge drug therapy to help her.
Despite the seriousness of her health setbacks Gracie, supported by mum Yvette and dad Jonathan, is determined to lead as normal a life as possible, particularly when it comes to pursuing her love of music.
She has written her own songs since an early age, including one she penned aged nine as a thank you to medical staff at Wrexham Maelor Hospital. It reduced doctors and nurses to tears.
She won rapturous applause singing before more than 500 people at Mold carnival, and her enchanting voice was praised by the late superstar Ken Dodd at Theatr Clwyd, Mold.
A pupil of Argoed High School, she has achieved grades one and two in her singing tuition, and she uses her iPad to help her compose.
Her favourite performer is Ariana Grande. She is also a fan of Katie Perry, who she met on a visit to London.
Gracie says it is her dream to one day win Britain’s Got Talent, but in the meantime she is happy to be performing whenever she can in-between her school studies.
DangerPoint deputy manager Cat Harvey-Aldcroft, who is organising the Christmas concert, is thrilled to have Gracie as a headline act.
She said: “Not only is Gracie a singing superstar in the making, but she is also one of DangerPoint’s greatest fans. She often attends our events and loves to join in all the activities. Her parents tell me coming here is her favourite day out. So, we’re all hugely excited to have her sing at the 2019 concert. Her voice can melt hearts, it’s so evocative.”
Gracie plans to sing two festive numbers, the carol Away in a Manger, and the hit It’s Not Christmas Without You from TV show Victorious.
She is pleased to share the bill with a classical quartet from the orchestra NEW Sinfonia, which was co-founded by brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy, who hail from Wrexham.
They grew up in Wrexham, gaining musical inspiration from their piano teacher grandmother Doreen Monslow, now 90.
It will be the third year a NEW Sinfonia quartet has performed at the yearly concert.
Conductor and viola player Robert and clarinetist Jonathan will be in the quartet along with Jonathan’s wife, violinist Catherine who has just landed a place with the world-famous Manchester Camarata orchestra. Meanwhile, the Russian cellist Svetlana Mochalova, a close friend, will complete the quartet.
Robert said: “It’s a great chance for Jonathan and I to play together. We’re so busy we don’t often get to do that these days, so this concert is one of those which is extra special to us. With Catherine there too, it’s set to be a real family affair.”
He added: “It is an absolute delight for us to take part in the DangerPoint concert. We were there last year and it was hugely uplifting, a great way to begin the festive season.
“What is so lovely about it is seeing scores of young children in the audience throwing their all into the world of music. We perform some popular seasonal pieces including a few Christmas carols and the sound of so many schoolchildren singing their hearts out is joyous.”
Robert, who suffered from deafness as a child, is now hailed as one of the most promising young conductors in the UK. As well as being Artistic Director of NEW Sinfonia, he is Head of Choral Programme and Director of Ensembles at the University of Manchester.
Cat said: “NEW Sinfonia is a fantastic orchestra and to have four of their top instrumentalists perform at our concert is amazing.”
She added: “The final programme is still in the making, but it is certainly shaping up to be a fantastic night. The acoustics in St Asaph Cathedral are tremendous and with so many supporters there we’re hoping to raise the roof, in addition to raising lots of funds for our good cause!”
Set up in 2005, DangerPoint has worked with almost 100,000 young people.
Based at Granary Court Business Park, Station Road, Talacre, it is a UK leader in efforts to raise children’s awareness of the potential risks to their personal safety on a practical level in the home, in society, and via the internet.
It is designed like a film set, where visitors can travel from home, to the beach, countryside, playground and a host of other settings to explore different scenarios.
Teaching studios include a replica of a modern house within which children learn about such things as fall-risks, electrical perils and fire hazards.
Sessions for schools, youth groups or families, let young people work through potential real-life scenarios, understanding risk and learning how to keep themselves safe.
Another key part of the charity’s work is an internet safety programme, which uses real-time avatar characters to educate schoolchildren about staying safe online.
Among its most acclaimed initiatives of 2019 was a summer display designed to raise awareness about the consequences of carrying knives and informing young people about how to avoid being drawn into the devastating world of knife crime.
Rob said he and Jonathan are proud to be able to help raise awareness of such an invaluable charity through their music.
He said: “NEW Sinfonia was founded by friends who met in the North Wales Youth Orchestra so supporting youth in North Wales is something we are passionate about”.
“I definitely urge people to get a ticket now. I promise it’ll be an unforgettable evening.”
Tickets for the December 13 concert are available in advance by emailing: [email protected] or calling DangerPoint on 01745 850414.
Doors open at 6.30pm to start at 7pm. Tickets are £6 adult, £3 children.