Dave takes West End bow after Covid recovery

A DOWNEND man who returned to singing after taking part in a ground-breaking covid recovery programme has performed on the West End stage.

Retired driving instructor Dave Smith caught Covid-19 during the first wave of the pandemic, and had the disease for ten months – the longest recorded case in the world at the time.

Dave’s immune system had already been weakened by chemotherapy treatment for leukaemia, which he was given the all-clear from only a week before catching covid.

He came close to death several times and developed pulmonary fibrosis, a form of lung disease which meant he had only half his previous lung capacity.

As part of his recovery Dave, who had sung in rock bands for 57 years, took part in an online course called ENO Breathe, devised by the English National Opera and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to tackle post-covid breathlessness and anxiety.

It caused such an improvement that Dave was able to perform again in December last year, staging a gig at the Langley Arms pub in Emersons Green, where he has been hosting a weekly quiz for 23 years.

In May Dave was one of 67 participants in the course invited to perform at London’s biggest West End theatre, the Coliseum, before an ENO production to showcase the success of the project, which has helped more than 2,500 people.

The event was filmed by the BBC, whose presenter Jon Kay had initially found out about the ENO Breathe programme and joined Dave and wife Lyn at the event.

Dave had been asked to take part because of his previous appearance on the BBC and, after he and Lyn arrived by train in London, a camera crew met them at Leicester Square tube station and filmed them walking to the theatre, through crowds who were starting to gather for the Coronation.

Dave said: “The afternoon was spent doing rehearsals interspersed with sessions of breathing and calming exercises.

“The staff of the ENO were brilliant, and didn’t over-tax us in any way.

“In the early evening we had a rehearsal on stage with the full 30-piece orchestra and then did the performance, which only amounted to some seven or eight minutes before the main opera.

“The house was packed, the Coliseum being the largest theatre in London with a 2,395 seat capacity.”

Dave and the rest of the covid recovery choir sang three short lullabies, called Dawn, Twilight and Midnight, which had been collectively written by the participants.

He said: “The cameras followed me right through and left just as the opera started its ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ – not my cup of tea, but the audience seemed to love it!