Mike O'Neill Big Band to play at Baldock's Knights Templar School to raise funds for friend's cancer treatment

PUBLISHED: 10:02 16 February 2017 | UPDATED: 16:05 08 March 2017

Brave Graham Rees from Baldock, in whose aid the concert is being held. Photo: Courtesy of Sharon Smith

Brave Graham Rees from Baldock, in whose aid the concert is being held. Photo: Courtesy of Sharon Smith

Archant

A Baldock community big band is set to help raise funds to support a friend’s cancer treatment with a concert in the town next month.

The Mike O'Neill Big Band practises for the show next month. Photo: Courtesy of Mike O'NeillThe Mike O'Neill Big Band practises for the show next month. Photo: Courtesy of Mike O'Neill

The Mike O’Neill Big Band will play at Knights Templar School on March 2 in aid of Baldock’s Graham Rees, who was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer two years ago.

Mike, who taught piano and jazz at Knights Templar for more than 20 years, got involved through his connection with Graham’s sister Deb Jones – who also works at the school, and is fundraising for Graham alongside his other sister Sylvia Carley.

Deb said: “Graham has had chemotherapy, which did help to shrink the tumour, but almost killed him in the process.

“He went on to receive Nivolumab, a new treatment that works with the immune system to fight the cancer. The treatment was amazing and gave Graham his life back.

“But unfortunately, as it is so expensive, the treatment could only be funded for a year. During that time the cancer shrank by 60 per cent and side effects were minimal.

“Graham has not been able to continue with this treatment, which has meant that without it the tumour has been allowed to grow again.

“We’re determined to raise money so that we can give our brother what he needs.”

An online crowdfunding page was launched to help extend Graham’s life in October, aiming to raise £20,000 – and events such as a ’70s charity disco held by his friends at the Jackmans Community Centre, which raised £2,135, have brought the total well within reach at £10,890.

And Mike says he and the band are delighted to be doing their part to help.

“We rehearse at Knights Templar, and have a few pupils play with us – Gabriel Taylor on on the piano is an amazing young musician,” said Mike.

“Sharon Smith from the staff is a friend of Deb’s, and she asked if we’d do a concert – I got onto the band and they said they’d be up for it, so I said we’d be delighted to do it.

“We’ll be playing a lot of Count Basie jazz standards, including his version of From Russia with Love.”

The show at Knights Templar, featuring vocalist Rachel Dawson, starts at 8pm on Thursday, March 2.

Tickets are £10 each and there will be a licensed bar.

To find out more or to book tickets call Mike on 07850 547014 or email michael.oneill15@btinternet.com. You can also buy tickets on the door.

If you can’t make it, you make a donation to Graham’s treatment at gofundme.com/2t69ghun.

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