The Kevin and Laure story

What am I doing with my ‘quarantine time’ I hear you ask? Well, for one thing, sorting through a lot of old paperwork, deciding what makes it into the scrapbooks and what gets thrown away; also, I had already started writing a family history, so my kids can know some things about their eccentric ancestors, so there’s that to work on.

I ran across this old article, written over 20 years ago, to publicise a very good cause. My (now, sadly, late) husband and I put together a show to raise funds for Leukaemia Research. Observe carefully how we name-drop with aplomb:


On an evening in November 1994, in a crowded studio in New York City, Laure Meloy and Kevin Harkins did just that. Laure, an American soprano, was performing in an experimental opera, when Kevin, a British entrepreneur visiting New York to attend a business exposition, took a night out to hear “something different.”

A mutual friend introduced them at a post-performance reception…and they were married only three months later, in February of 1995. You might not think that terribly unusual, except that Kevin returned almost immediately to England, and the couple didn’t see each other again for more than a month, when Laure was persuaded by Kevin’s frequent telephone calls to fly over and celebrate Hogmanay in Scotland with some of Kevin’s friends and family.

She returned to New York in the new year wearing an engagement ring, and flew back to Scotland in February to marry Kevin “over the anvil” at Gretna Green. It was a real elopement: Laure’s own mother (who had not even met Kevin at this point) was only informed after the fact by telephone. The only dark cloud on the horizon was Kevin’s diagnosis with Chronic Lymphatic Leukaemia (CLL) around the same time as his engagement to Laure. Naturally, this came as a big shock to them both, but they were determined to go ahead with their wedding plans, as well as continuing to pursue their respective careers. 

After a more public wedding ceremony in New York (so Laure’s Mum could finally meet her new son-in-law!), the couple went on honeymoon to Cartagena, Colombia, where they found they were staying at the same hotel as the cast and crew of the BBC mini-series ‘Nostromo’. Over the pool-side breakfast tables, they made the acquaintance of stars Albert Finney, Serena Scott Thomas and Colin Firth. On returning to New York, they realised that Laure’s career was beginning to take off: she had received a favourable notice in The New York Times, and had been offered a role in a European opera production which would tour in France and Spain.

A two month separation was difficult for the newlyweds, but they made up for lost time by spending a romantic Christmas in Paris. Laure’s tour experiences inspired the founding, in early 1996, of Gala Opera International, a concert opera company dedicated to bringing classical singing to small communities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Kevin and Laure, Co-Directors, were in the midst of planning the inaugural concert tour, ‘The Three Sopranos’, when Kevin had to be hospitalised with pneumonia. The couple made the decision then that, after the English leg of the tour in July, they would remain in Britain so that Kevin could be under the full-time care of his primary consultant haematologist at West Cumberland Hospital, Dr. Nick West. 

‘The Three Sopranos’ tour went well both in the US, on Long Island, NY, and in the UK, in Kevin’s part of the country, the English Lake District.

It went so well, in fact, that they were invited to sing at another venue on Long Island in spring 1997, and were invited back to the Lake District in October 1997 and again in 1998. Under the care of Dr. West, Kevin’s CLL was brought back under control, and the couple have now settled in the Home Counties area.

Kevin has given up his other business interests to devote all his energies to Gala Opera International, and to developing Laure’s solo career. Things have begun to pick up for her on this side of the Atlantic, singing roles such as Constanze in Mozart’s ‘Die Entführung aus dam Serail’, and the Queen of the Night in ‘Die Zauberflöte’. The latter earned her good notices in a production staged in London’s Holland Park, and will serve as her debut role with Opera North in January 1998. 

She has also been invited back to New York to sing at the Lincoln Center Festival: in an expanded, fully-staged production of the opera she was singing when she first met Kevin.

P.s. In the spring of 1997, the sad passing of a young friend from Acute Myeloid Leukaemia started the couple thinking about something they could do to help. Inspired by the work of José Carreras in raising funds for leukaemia sufferers, they decided to stage another ‘Three Sopranos’ concert which, like the original ‘Three Tenors’ concert, would serve as a fund-raiser for leukaemia. 

In association with the Leukaemia Research Fund, Gala Opera International will be presenting a ‘Three Sopranos’ concert in Carlisle’s Sands Centre on 6th June, 1998.


 

We managed to raise over £1,000 for the charity. And yes, this story made it into both the scrapbook and the family history. Well, my son has to know how his parents met, right?

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