Marie O’Brien, 61, from Winchester has a knack for transferring her joy of life to those around her and bringing pleasure to all. Seven years ago, she joined the Eastleigh Fusion Choir, a local community choir, in Hampshire, where she sang once a week. The leader of the choir was leaving and the choir was in danger of disbanding – until it was agreed that Marie should lead them instead. Now, she is receiving national recognition by being presented with The British Citizen Award.
Even though leading the choir was never on Marie’s agenda, and although she had no experience, she agreed she would ‘give it a go’. Marie thrived in the leadership role and decided to set up a second choir in her home town of Winchester, so in 2013 the Winchester Fusion Choir was born with just 3 singers, now it has over 90 singers. It was her vision that the new choir, like the Eastleigh Fusion Choir, should be fun, embrace all, include all abilities, no auditions, no choreography and no previous knowledge needed.
In 1998 Marie was involved in a road traffic accident which completely changed her life. She sustained a broken neck with a spinal cord injury, with talk of possible tetraplegia. However, Marie made a complete recovery, amazing all. Her consultant said, ‘I have never known anyone walk away from the degree of injury you sustained’. This life changing experience has led to an unwavering gratitude for life and has inspired her to create choirs unlike many other choirs. From arms that once did not move to arms that lead choirs in song, Marie has created joyful, uplifting, inclusive choirs that are enjoyed by all.
During her time with the choirs, they have been instrumental in collecting over £48,000 for charities, including one which sent a young girl to America for life-changing surgery.
The British Citizen Awards (BCAs) were launched in January 2015, to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society. BCAs are awarded twice annually, and recognise ‘everyday’ people whose achievements may otherwise be overlooked.
Marie is one of 29 medalists who will be honoured at a prestigious ceremony on July 5th, at the Palace of Westminster. All BCA recipients have selflessly undertaken various activities in support of a number of worthy causes. Each will receive a Medal of Honour, inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’. Medalists are also invited to use the initials BCA after their name.
Speaking about her nomination, Marie said:
‘I feel honoured, humbled and amazed that I have been put forward for this lovely award. I would like to thank everyone, family, friends and choir members, who have helped me along the way to form and nurture these wonderful communities of singers and song.’
The awards are sponsored by the world’s largest optical retailer, Specsavers; one of the largest property and leisure management, development and regeneration companies in the UK, Places for People; and worldwide leader in IT and networking, Cisco. Each had representatives at the assessment day and will be presenting the awards in July, alongside TV star host, Michael Underwood.
Marie was nominated for a BCA by Nancy Maidment who said:
‘Marie spreads a joy of life and of music to all who come into contact with her and has created caring, happy, inclusive and unique choirs. She means a great deal to all her singers, and we are overjoyed that she has been recognised with this award. ‘