Rhinegold Photo credit: Graham Wood

Melissa Bradshaw

Joglaresa founder Belinda Sykes diagnosed with terminal cancer

3:03, 30th August 2019

Musician and singer Belinda Sykes, founder of London-based ensemble Joglaresa, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and wants to spend her remaining time gigging and raising money for Sarcoma UK.

Following a total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy in October 2018, Sykes was left temporarily unable to use her abdominal muscles, which meant she could not sing or play wind instruments. As a result, her career ended abruptly just before she was due to collaborate with Evelyn Glennie at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Five weeks after her operation, Sykes was diagnosed with uterine leiomyosarcoma – a very rare form of sarcoma.

In March 2019, Sykes was told that the cancer was back and growing at an aggressive rate. She is now on a treatment plan of monthly palliative chemotherapy sessions to help slow the growth of her tumour. Now that she is able to use her abdominal muscles ‘professionally’ again, she plans to spend her remaining time gigging with Joglaresa.

‘Gigging with Joglaresa is what I live for and I want my remaining time to be spent performing and sharing the music I love with as many people as I can,’ Sykes comments. ‘One of Joglaresa’s unique features is that it is not a solo singer with a backing band, but a team of soloists and we proudly allow our different vocal qualities to shine out – the antithesis of the “blended” English Choral Tradition.’

Sykes has championed women’s medieval song and extensively researched European medieval music as well as music of the old Ottoman and Arabic Empires. Her ensemble Joglaresa is considered early music’s ‘bit of rough’ who push, and often transcend, the limits of what is thought of as early music. She continues: ‘I’ve spent decades finding characterful singers who can be both divas and team players. The greatest joy I have in life is standing among these singers.’

Joglaresa are performing a series of concerts across England over the coming months and will be donating 100% of the sales of their back catalogue to raise money for Sarcoma UK. To donate please visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/joglaresasarcoma.

BBC Radio 3’s day celebrating the world of Al-Andalus will be repeating Sykes’s edition of The Early Music Show on 29 September.


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