East Anglian premiere at Yoxford church of mother’s poignant song for her daughter

Laura Folley and her daughter Abigail, inspiration for her song A Mother's Prayer.
Picture: Laura F

Laura Folley and her daughter Abigail, inspiration for her song A Mother's Prayer. Picture: Laura Folley, contributed. - Credit: Archant

Laura Folley trained as a singer but only started to write music when she became a mother. LIttle did she know her daughter would turn out to be her greatest inspiration. Sheena Grant found out more...

Seraphim will be performing in Yoxford on December 3.
Picture: Seraphim, contributed

Seraphim will be performing in Yoxford on December 3. Picture: Seraphim, contributed - Credit: Archant

Hearing music performed is often an emotional experience. But when a group of singers take to the stage next month for the East Anglian premiere of a hauntingly beautiful song about a mother’s love for her daughter there almost certainly won’t be a dry eye in the house.

A Mother’s Prayer was written by Laura Folley during her treatment for breast cancer and will be performed at St Peter’s Church, Yoxford, on December 3 by solo ensemble Seraphim, directed by Vetta Wise.

Laura’s song, which took shape as she prepared to have surgery, is in the form of a prayer for guardian angels to watch over her daughter, Abigail, then just 13, whatever the future held.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer the thing that worried me most was my daughter,” says Laura. “She is such an amazing child.

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“Facing a serious illness can be an emotional rollercoaster and very confusing. I hope the song will help others to articulate their worst fears and take strength perhaps from the notion that at some level we are all being looked after and our children will be too. Letting go of the emotional conflict can be very liberating. If you focus on doing what you love, the fear will subside.”

Laura, who trained as a singer at the Royal Academy of Music before going on to work in the corporate world, says in the weeks after her diagnosis she toyed with the idea of writing a blog or a book but as her treatment got underway she began to hear musical patterns and rhythms in some of the tests and treatments she was having.

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She made some notes and jotted a few things down but nothing further happened until a chance encounter with family friend Vetta Wise just before she was due to have surgery.

“In April this year I spotted a mindfulness workshop which I thought would help me cope with the emotional side of my cancer treatment,” says Laura. “It was taking place just a couple of miles from where Vetta lives in Suffolk. We arranged to meet and Vetta told me about Seraphim and I revealed that I had written a few pieces in the past, so she asked me to write something for them. I agreed but said she was welcome to reject my piece if she didn’t like it. I was so grateful to have something creative going on in my head as I prepared for surgery.”

Despite her background, Laura only started composing when she became a mother, in order to share her love of music with her daughter.

She describes hearing the nine Suffolk and Norfolk-based Seraphim singers perform her work as “heavenly”.

“I had a rough idea in my head of how it would sound but hearing it live is just amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a more accomplished performance. My daughter says it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and she’s immensely proud. In turn, I’m indebted to her because she is a constant source of inspiration. And to Vetta, who planted the seed of angelic voices with flute and harp.”

A year on from her diagnosis and after surgery and chemotherapy Laura, who lives in Surrey, has been told she is now “cancer-free” and is sure the process of writing the song during her treatment really helped.

“My six months of chemo was a big success but the emotional side of it kicked in as I prepared for surgery,” she says. “I wasn’t frightened of death and I knew my husband would be fine but I was most anxious about Abigail. It was just at this time that Vetta invited me to write a piece of music.

“The connection between being a mother, female voices, Seraphs and the prayer for the wellbeing of my child no matter what happened to me in the coming months was a fantastic boost to my creative energy and as I was put under general anaesthetic I was really at peace with the swirls of major 7th chords and ‘angelic’ musical themes wafting around my head.

“There is a lot of speculation about the effect of a positive attitude on recovery and for me it was definitely the power of music which pulled me through. The synchronicity of what happened to me in the last year is just astounding. I’m not religious, but there was definitely an angel or two orchestrating my recovery, or maybe a Seraph?”

Tickets for Seraphim’s musical “Celebration and Meditation” of Christmas and Advent at Yoxford on December 3 cost £13.50 and include a mulled wine reception and the ringing of the church bells. Call 07763 527239 or email tickets@seraphimvoices.uk. The show will also include pieces by Hildegard of Bingen as well as Imogen Holst and Eric Whitacre. Anna Noakes (flute) and Gabriella Dall’Olio (harp), will also weave their musical magic during the evening.

For more information visit www.seraphimvoices.uk.

A Mother’s Prayer

Your head lies softly on my heart

Gently dreaming of all the adventures of a fine long day.

I gaze in wonder at the glorious woman child you’ve become

As your heart beats on.

I see your feet which pattered through the years,

They’re strong and rooted now

Mystical and magical as Hazelwood.

Your hands which touched and tasted everything they could are trained and ready now: the tools of womanhood.

And as your slumber lingers on

I imagine all the adventures that may lie ahead

And softly pray that Seraphim watch over you

When I am gone.

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