- By Jon Kay & Sammy Jenkins
- BBC Breakfast presenter
The world’s longest Covid-19 patient has fulfilled his dream of performing on the West End stage.
Pub and club performer Dave Smith, from Bristol, never thought he would sing again after being infected with the disease for more than 10 months.
However, with the help of the British National Opera (ENO), he became part of a choir of 70 people with Covid to perform at the Colosseum in London.
Mr Smith said the experience was “absolute magic”.
“From a performance standpoint, it doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.
The largest theater in the West End, the Coliseum has hosted The Who, Bjork and Genesis, as well as various musicals.
Mr. Smith, who went through cancer treatment before contracting Covid, said: “I’ve lost 10 stone. I’ve gone from size 44 pants, I’ve dropped to almost 28.”
“It’s like someone pulled the plug and everything in your life was drained from your body.”
But Mr Smith was referred by the NHS for the six-week ENO Breathing Programme, an initiative developed by the firm’s Suzie Zumpe in partnership with Imperial College London.
Aimed at those recovering from Covid-19, more than 2,500 people participated, receiving help with breathing and health problems.
In the free program, attendees also took part in singing and writing sessions, eventually writing three lullabies together and performing them at the theater.
Mr. Smith, who used to sing with his band in pubs and clubs in Bristol, said: “We have an orchestra. The right musicians too.”
Dave Smith. The presenter is back!
By Jon Kay, presenter of BBC Breakfast
Cancer and chemotherapy destroyed his immune system, so when he contracted Covid at the start of the pandemic, he couldn’t get rid of it.
The virus remained in his body for 10 months – the longest recorded case in the world. When I first met Dave in 2021 to shoot a BBC Breakfast reportage, he was delighted to be alive but also deeply saddened that his Covid-scarred lungs meant that he may never sing again.
After decades of performing at pubs and clubs in Bristol, this is heartbreaking for Dave. He felt lost. Missing. But the progress he made on last year’s ENO Breathe course meant he was finally able to restore lung capacity and find his voice again.
On the contrary, for Christmas, he performed with old friends in his band at a local pub.
And now, as I watch from the sidelines as he joins the ENO Breathe choir, another remarkable moment… Dave clearly can’t believe it as he looks out into the historic auditorium of the Duel. roman school.
He admits that his voice will never be as strong as it used to be – “I’m not Pavarotti,” he jokes – but the joy he takes in being able to sing and be a singer again. Part of the music community helped him regain his confidence and performance skills.
His trip to London was exhausting but he didn’t stop laughing or joking for even a minute. Dave the showman is back!
He said: “The last few years, the journey to get here, with the help of the people of Breathe has helped me be truly amazing.
“It’s definitely a new experience but it’s one that I will cherish.
“Everybody on stage has had the same problems I’ve had over the past few years, but we’re all working on this together.”
Dr Hannah King, who also joined the choir after enduring Covid for a long time, said: “I never thought I would do something like that.
“For at least eight months, I barely left my bedroom. I was just in bed, maybe in the bathroom and really just that.”
Another choir artist, Marj Levy, from Bristol, said the virus had left her “very, very breathless”.
“I can’t hold a conversation,” she said. “Now, just by doing the exercises and really connecting with my body, the transformation has gone well.”
Jenny Mollica, ENO’s director of engagement, said the project started as a trial, with 12 attendees in London, but it is now being rolled out at 86 NHS trusts across the country.
She said the show was “a truly special and extraordinary moment to come together and celebrate the connection people feel on this show”.