Andrew has asked that I would write a profile of myself for Helen's web page.
Like most profiles where does one begin? I guess I should first introduce myself. My name is David Pearse Hughes, born in Birmingham, England. Now living in Hope, British Columbia, Canada.
The year 1961 had a profound effect upon me! I left school in July of that year, and like most teenagers of that time we were going through tremendous changes. Early in the spring of that year I remember listening to the radio, it was a Saturday morning when I heard this song, which seemed to sum up how I and many of my peer group were then feeling "Don't treat me like a child". I can remember listening to those words and wondering who had written them and this voice, wow! I really did pay attention to what the DJ was saying, the music was stilling ringing in my head, then the shock that is was a young girl named "Helen Shaprio". I was a fan from that moment on. As all my friends and I prepared to leave school that year, the newspapers, TV were all covering the most famous teenager in Britain, namely Helen Shaprio. I don't think even Prince Charles and Princess Anne had the same coverage!
If I recall correctly Helen's second recording was now climbing the charts "You don't know" how that message spoke again to most teenagers who had crushes on certain people. I remember dancing at my local youth club to Helen's two records.
After a long summer vacation in 1961, I set about looking for work. Once I found work, one of the first things I did was find out if there was a "fan" club for Helen Shaprio; I could now afford to join! I am pleased to say that one had been started, with Cliff Richard being the President. Helen's latest hit was now No. 1 "Walkin back to happiness". I cannot recall the membership fee, but it was worth it. I now received a newsletter, membership card and an autographed photo of Helen! I looked forward to the release of Helen's first movie. I watched the New Musical Express and the Melody Maker Newspapers, (there was another one but I cannot recall the name now) each week for information on Helen.
I remember a friend from work and I attending Helen's first show in Birmingham in 1962 at the Hippodrome Cost 8/6; we both were on a high that evening. The next time I saw Helen perform was again at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1963, this time I decided to be a "big spender" Cost 36/6 and I booked a box which was right along the stage, I dragged my mother and sister along with me. I can still remember the surprised look on Helen's face when she turned and saw that someone was sitting in the box, up to that point she had eye contact with the audience out front so to speak. I had all Helen's records and played them most evenings, when I returned home from work.
In 1969 I decided to leave England and go out to Canada. My intention was to stay at least two years. As I am writing this in 2001 you can see that I am still here or that I cannot count! My mom used to keep me up to date with any news on Helen, and friends always sent me out newspaper clippings, so although I was seven thousand miles away I still was "in touch" so to speak.
Another remarkable thing happened to me in 1973. I had what some people call a 'conversion experience'. Although, I was raised catholic, attended catholic schools and the whole bit. It wasn't until 1973 that things really started to happen to me faith wise that is, because of this conversion experience, my life with Christ was different.
In 1976 I left Canada to attend a seminary in Rome, after 4 years I was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. After my ordination I was made director of Youth Ministry. In many of the workshops and retreats that I have given I was able to use some of Helen's music. Many of the young people that I ministered to thought that it was 'cool' that Father David had collected pop music!
Over the years I have often returned England to visit my parents, sister and friends. I was sometimes fortunate to pick up the odd record of Helen's, catch up on the latest news.
In 1994 I returned to England to visit my mother, during that vacation time my mother suffered a stroke, needless to say my life style changed once again. I spent most of that summer nursing my mother before I returned to Canada in late Sept. In mid October I was returning to England. I had decided that I had to be in England to make sure that my mother was being taken care of.
This time was truly one of great stress, there was joys, and tears all the emotions that engulf you when you are nursing someone back to health. It was just by chance that I found a copy of two of Helen's Gospel CD's. After I had made sure that my mother was taken care of and tucked up in bed each evening, I used to listen to Helen's music particular the songs from the Pearl, and Kadosh - "Ride on to die" and "I go to the Rock" and "Messiah King". During that time a friend brought me a copy of Helen's autobiography. As she tells the story of her mother's illness I knew exactly how she was feeling. I remember sitting in my mother's living room with tears streaming down my face as I read her words.
The spring of 1995 brought about more changes, because my own commitments in Canada. I was feeling the pressure to return to my ministry. It was decided that I should return in the late summer, hence I had to find a place for my mother to live.
One particular day my mother and I had been out looking at various places, we came in with fish and chips, turned on the telly to watch "This is your life", what a surprise both my mother and I had when it turned out to be Helen's. It brought back memories for my mother of that concert at the Birmingham Hippodrome, back in the sixties.
Over the remaining years of my mothers life I was visiting England on a regular basis, however, I could never get myself co-ordinated with any tour dates in which Helen would be in the Midlands. I was just able to catch the odd TV appearance though.
When I decided to try and see if there was any information on the net about Helen at the beginning of this year, what a shock to find a web page! Then the news about a gala evening to mark the 40th anniversary of "Don't treat me like a child". I knew that I had to go to the party. I made a few enquires and it all fell into place, so February 8th I set out from Hope to be in England on the 9th and for the party on the 10th.
As I got myself ready for the evening, I thought to myself this is going to be a little strange. I was not sure what to expect and what was I going to say if people asked me what I did for occupation!
I went down to the reception, had my glass of wine and watched people greet each other, then I saw Helen's husband come in, I hadn't noticed Helen's arrival. The two gentlemen I was talking too, had records to get autographed, so they left me alone! The next thing I know I was being asked to take photo's of Helen and these gentlemen. They then told Helen that I had come from Canada for the party. Helen was surprised to say the least.
I guess that highlight of the evening was the fact that Helen came and joined our table and shared some of the highlights of her career. One the high notes' being in 'Oliver' her sharing earliest memories of the recordings she made famous. When she asked me about my occupation she was surprised that I was a catholic priest. Her remarks that she would like to talk about Christianity me, but it was not the time or place. I was amazed that Helen knew most of the people by name, this showed to me that this remarkable person truly appreciates her 'fan's' who just happened to be friends!
My only regret that evening because of the flu symptoms that Helen was experiencing she did not sing that evening. I guess that I will have to return to England to hear Helen sing. But, as John said that he would love to bring Helen out to the West Coast of Canada for a visit - so as I said John the door is open to you and Helen, any time in Hope, British Columbia That would really for fill a dream for me.
I cannot think of one particular song that stands out as a 'favourite' I believe that Helen's music is like the seasons. It is ever changing but certain songs transcend time and are "timeless" like the ones I have already mentioned. I would just like to conclude with a special thank you to Helen for forty years of great music and to thank God for the gift to Helen to us all.
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