Twenty years is a long time. It’s enough time for five U.S. presidencies, enough time for major technological breakthroughs, and enough time for an infant to grow into an adult. For most people, 20 years is about a quarter of their life. So when somebody’s been a part of something for 20 years, it means that they’ve really dedicated themselves to it. As was the case with Peter Kennedy of Shepley, West Yorkshire, and the New Mill Male Voice Choir.
Kennedy started performing with New Mill back in 1997 and has taken his part very seriously ever since. He’s recorded every rehearsal for the past 20 years so that he can listen back to them and perfect his part. He’s also organized many of their performances, including an upcoming holiday performance in a nearby pub that took years to plan for. Kennedy has made plenty of friends through his choir experience and even more memories.
“I’ve known the lads in this choir for, well, 20 years now,” Kennedy told ITV News, “and we’ve done everything together as a singing group.”
Recently, 65-year-old Kennedy was diagnosed with kidney cancer and given only a few weeks to live. Many things were running through his mind when he received the diagnosis but one of his biggest concerns was that he’d miss his weekly choir rehearsals. Understanding his concern, choir members reached out to Kennedy’s wife, Denise, and daughters, Helen Lear and Sarah Martin, to see if they would be able to swing by for a surprise performance outside his house.
The family, of course, said yes. Thirty-four choir members gathered outside Kennedy’s house one morning and sang him songs like “Morte Criste,” “The Rose,” and “Hail Smiling Morn.” Kennedy loved the performance so much that he tapped his foot and started singing along.
When ITV asked for his exact thoughts about the concert, he told them it was “Incredible! That’s it. It’s very very—it’s awesome! Yeah. So I think that’s it.”
“Me dying wish has come true.”
Kennedy was obviously very moved by the performance but he wasn’t the only one. The choir had been moved as well, as evident in an interview ITV held with two of its members:
“It was a privilege,” explained one of Kennedy’s choir buddies, “There were tears in our eyes … We were holding it back.”
“Y’know it was quite difficult but joyful in a lot of ways. To see his little smiling face out in the window and all the family, y’know, you could see what it meant to Pete and them—and it meant a lot to us.”
Since the choir made the effort to come out to Kennedy’s house to perform for him and they delivered such a heartfelt performance, he thought that he needed to repay them in some way. So, after the concert, he sent his daughters out on a special mission.
“Dad said ‘I want to buy them all a drink,'” Lear explained to ITV. “So they all went to the local pub in the village and Dad sent us out with some money to pay for them all a drink.”
The pub they went to is called the Black Bull and it’s the very same pub where the choir will be holding their Christmas concert on December 14.
Kennedy, who went into hospice just one day after the surprise visit, likely won’t live to hear that concert but he wants the New Mill Male Voice Choir to keep singing anyway.
“I’m wanting it all to be going on when I’ve gone, so to speak. I’ve got to accept what [part] in this I’ve got now.”
Kennedy added that he’ll be proud of his fellow vocalists, when they perform and that he’ll be “looking down from above.”
To see a short snippet of The New Mill Male Voice Choir’s performance, click the video below.