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In 1995 I had the immense pleasure and good fortune of seeing, for the second time, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera and then, two weeks later, his amazing Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber Surrender tour, starring the incomparable Sarah Brightman. My adoration of Sarah began in 1992 when I first discovered Phantom and, in turn, it’s two amazing Stars – Sarah and the Angel of Music himself Michael Crawford. I joined the Michael Crawford International Fan Association (M.C.I.F.A.) first, then the Phantom Appreciation Society (PAS) and finally the Sarah Brightman Fan Club. This last was more of an information service, providing Sarah’s fans with news on TV and concert dates and on her latest CD’s and videos. There were no yearly fees and the newsletters came out two or three times a year. The club was run by Linda Nicholls who, along with her husband David, had become very good friends of mine over the years.
It was during the time I was part of the PAS that I had some unpleasant encounters with a group of jealous lunatics. They, along with their untalented, envious shrew of a leader (who shall here remain nameless), enjoy spreading vile, spiteful rumours about Sarah. They have a sick, twisted idea of things and, as far as I’m concerned, aren’t worth anyone’s time or effort. Their combined I.Q. is less than that of a raisin and their favourite nick-name for Sarah is “Chipmunk Cheeks” (see what I mean about no I.Q.!!)!!! Where they get the idea that dear woman looks like a chipmunk is beyond me. Unless, of course, they mean she’s cute and cuddly but, knowing them as I’ve come to, I highly doubt it!
It was around this time that my feelings for Sarah grew from simple admiration (“Oh, what a lovely voice!”) to me becoming fiercely protective of her (“Hurt her and you’re dog meat!”). The more the lunatics claimed Sarah was temperamental and difficult to work with, the more I continued to fight for what I knew in my heart to be the truth – that this tiny, delicate, soft-spoken English girl was kind and gentle and a gazillion percent genuine. She was also about as difficult to work with as my dear friend, screen Legend Janet Gaynor.
Then, in mid-June 1995, I saw Surrender and my love for Sarah only grew stronger. At that amazing concert, her Voice was more powerful than I’d ever heard it!!! She was absolutely amazing from the moment she stepped onto the stage to sing Think of Me from Phantom. By the time she and Sean Martin Hingston – a gorgeous hunk from Australia with an equally impressive voice – came out to do the title track from Phantom, I wanted to tell anyone with dentures to hold on to their teeth!!!!! The final notes were so explosive I thought for sure the roof of the venue must’ve been blown off!!!!! When you hear Sarah on a CD or cassette her voice is amazingly beautiful, but to be sitting 20 feet in front of her when she hits those notes…well, it defies description. To this day I get Goosebumps from head to foot when I think of it!!!!!
As time passed again I managed to acquire all of Sarah’s CD’s, even those that had been out of print for ages, as well as a special surprise from a collector friend – a rare video copy of the 1982 TV version of Andrew’s Song and Dance that starred a very young Sarah.
Then, in 1998 came her One Night in Eden tour to coincide with the release of the Eden CD. When the tour passed through Philadelphia I was unable to go for various reasons, but one of my friends got me a programme and photo and I was able to get the video when it was released in 1999. It was a softly soothing trip to Paradise and back and I’ve often found myself watching it over and over again.
In the summer of 2000 I received the wonderful news that the Mann Centre for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia was once again on the schedule for my Lady’s latest phenomenal world tour La Luna, on the heels of her new CD of the same title. I told my father I wanted tickets for my birthday and we ordered them in late July. They were received a few days later and I immediately put them in a special place in my room.
About a week before the concert I received something from the Mann Centre stating that for a gift to the Centre of $500 I could meet Sarah after the show for “champagne and sweets”. Now, as much as I’d love to support the Centre and the Arts, that was definitely out of my budget!!!!! But then I got an idea – I phoned Alice Simons, the woman in charge of this, explaining how I’d been out of work and that the tickets had been a gift. I then asked if there were any way we could get back-stage passes to meet Lady Sarah after the show. Alice was very nice and explained that they didn’t give out back-stage passes, but that I might catch a glimpse of my Lady at the stage door. She told me where it was and I thanked her profusely.
On the night of Wednesday, 27 September, 2000, my parents and I arrived at the lovely Mann Music Centre in Philadelphia for my Lady’s ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS La Luna tour. The curtain rose a little after 8 PM – trust me when I tell you that it wasn’t just a concert, it was an event!!!!!! Sarah’s Voice was the most magnificent I’ve ever heard it!!! My folks were totally awed by the sheer power coming from the tiny, delicate creature on the stage!!! I, of course, knew all the songs and sang along with some of them. The acoustics at the Centre were phenomenal and, in combination with that unearthly Voice, I felt the vibrations under my feet all night!!!!! Even though the programmes were a bit expensive I managed to get one along with a two-CD set of Sarah’s Fly album. This was actually the original CD along with one of rare and old songs.
But the concert itself defied description. There was a huge projection of a full moon behind my Lady, there were at various times bright flashes of light, they shot blue and white confetti into the audience, bright white sparks streamed down the back of the stage from the flies, there was a huge glowing globe rolled onto the stage and the absolute best part – Sarah flew!!!!!! I mean, literally flew – like Mary Martin did in Peter Pan only better!!!!!! She was doing back flips and somersaults while suspended from a harness contraption 30 feet off the stage!!!!!! It was unbelievable!!!!! The audience was totally floored!!!
The most incredible part, though, came after the show. Following Alice’s instructions my folks and I made our way around to where the stage door was. There was a group of people waiting that one of the security people told me were the ones who’d paid $500 to see her. Well, he was misinformed! A few minutes later another security person asked me if I was waiting to meet Miss Brightman. Thinking he meant if I had a $500 ticket I said I didn’t have one and was hoping to see her when she came out the stage door. He told me that the line was actually an autograph line (!!!!!) and if I wanted to meet her to get at the end.
Well, I grabbed my parents and we got to the end of the line posthaste!!!!! At a little after 11 PM the security people started giving the usual schpeel I’d heard at dozens of Star Trek conventions over the years – no personalizations and no photos. A few minutes later, however, camera flashes started going off and we began inching our way to the stage door!!!
Finally, at about 11:20 PM I was only a few feet from my Lady. I don’t even remember if I was breathing! My mother was so excited she was nearly pushing ahead of the three girls in front of us. When they finally left she got to Sarah first, took her hand and greeted her. In the next second Sarah hugged Mum and kissed her cheek and was hugged and kissed in return, then Mum said – “My daughter has been wanting to meet you for so long.”
That’s when I FINALLY got a word in edgewise!!!!! But I was so overwhelmed by this point that I could barely breathe!!!!!! All I could manage to say was – “My Lady, it’s an honour.” And in the next moment I was in her arms!!!!!! She kissed me softly on the cheek at the same moment I kissed her. For as long as I live I will never forget the way her face felt. It was so soft – not just her skin, but her face; it was like a newborn baby’s and there was just the faintest trace of perfume…or perhaps it was fresh soap, I couldn’t tell which.
Back in February, 1980, I’d had the good fortune to meet another special lady – screen Legend Janet Gaynor, whom I’ve adored since I was all of 13. In a piece I did on my friendship with Janet (to read it, click here) I wrote that meeting her that day was like coming face to face with a higher intelligence. But in the moment that Sarah and I embraced time stood still and I knew – every cell in my body knew, down to the sub-atomic level – into the very core of my soul, I knew – that I was, literally, in the presence of the Goddess Herself, Almighty Isis stood before me. There was such a feeling emanating from her that was warm and soft and so comforting and at the same time so incredibly powerful, like a supernova. It fairly overloaded my senses!!!!!!
When we parted only a moment later my Lady signed the cover of my programme – “Love, Sarah Brightman” – and I heard my Dad say – “I got it!” I turned around and he was proudly holding the camera. I said – “You got what? We weren’t even looking!!!!!” So we all posed for a second photo and then I handed her my autograph book. While she signed it my Mum said – “All I hear all day is ‘Sarah, Sarah, Sarah’.” And I jumped in with – “I have all your CD’s. I hear your Voice in my head from the moment I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night.”
Sarah looked up and smiled and once more said “Thank you.” She speaks so quietly and so softly – like velvet. It’s also in this way that she reminds me of Janet. I then thanked her as she handed me my autograph book and took the camera from Dad. He stood next to Sarah but she looked down to sign another autograph just as I snapped the picture. He didn’t care though – he had it blown up to an 8×10 and framed!!! He’s so proud of it!!!
After the last photo my folks and I made our way back to the car. I felt like I was floating a few feet off the ground!!! When we arrived home about 12:45 AM I took a quick shower and went to bed, but I don’t think I slept more than two or three hours – meeting Lady Sarah made my whole year!!!!!!
No matter how much time passes, that wonderful night will live on in my mind and heart as long as I live. With the DVD of La Luna I can go back whenever I want and enjoy myself all over again. I will continue to collect Sarah’s future recordings and videos and will follow my Beloved Queen to the ends of the Earth and beyond.
In January, 2004, my Mum and I went to see Sarah again in her mind-blowing Harem tour at the Wachovia Centre in Philadelphia. Here are some pics from that concert.
***With the exception of the three pics I took with Lady Sarah, I don’t own any of the other ones. They are here solely for the enjoyment of my readers. My thanks to any and all the copyright owners, including Siew May Chin, Herb Leonhard and anyone else.***