Michael Ball's new Aspect on Love
A very poignant anniversary will be observed at the home of singing star Michael Ball and his girlfriend Cathy McGowan this weekend.
It was on July 19 last year that Angela McGowan, the woman to whom Ball owes the most important relationship of his life, lost her brief and painful battle against cancer, leaving husband John - Cathy's brother - and two teenage daghters.
While Ball continues to enjoy phenomenal success in his career, with his debut TV series currently running on ITV, Angela's death has affected him deeply. Many celebrities lend thier names and talents to one-off charity events satisfied they have 'done their bit', Ball has gone even further, setting up his own charity.
Despite the demands of a career which allows him barely a day off work, Michael is currently pouring his energies into ROC - Research into Ovarian Cancer - which he, Cathy and her sister Frankie have dounded in Angela's memory. he is now busily organising a concert for later this year to raise money for his organisation.
'Cathy and I owe our relationship to Angela,' he says. 'What happened to Angela ripped the soul out of the family to which I have become very close. John is battling on but, especially during the summer nights, he opens the door of his home and there is no one there.'
Michael met Cathy when she was working as a celebrity interviewer for a London TV station more than four years ago. 'Angela had heard my song. Love Chages Everything, and said to Cathy: "you have got to hear this song and you have got to interview this guy." If it had not been for that we may never have met,' he remembers.
The 48-year-old - one of the faces of the Swinging Sixties, when she was known as the Queen of the Mods - seemed an ulikely match for the West End star who is 17 years her junior.
But the romance has survived the most scrutiny to blossom. The couple now share a riverside home in West London.
Michael will never forget the day he and Cathy moved into their home. 'Angela went in for a routine operation in March last year. She had had smear tests nd everything seemd fine. Thje day we moved into the house was the day we got the telephone call saying Angela had gone in for the operation and thy had discovered cancer.
'When they opened her up they found the fourth stage of ovarian cnacer. There had been no symptoms and she was dead three months later. The family was shattered. the speed of it all was just so scary. She lost all her weight and all her strength. It was awful.'
The last time Angela was able to leave her home was to see Ball singing. 'I was doing a tour and the nearest venue was Croydon, so she came to see me there. It was the last time she was able to go ou,' he says sadly.
The first anniversary of Angela's death will bring back many of the memories of that traumatic time. 'I think it is wose if a mother dies rather than a father. I hope this doesn't sound sexist but,, traditionally, it is the mother who is the core of a home and family atmosphere.
'And for the two girls to lose their mother when they were 15 and 18 is terrible. Angela said she would have died happily as long as she had seen her daughters mary, but she never did.
'We owe it to Angela to do something and all we can do is channel our energies into something positive. Ovarian cancer is curable in 98 % of cases if it is found in its early stages. But at the momemnt it is never found until the fourth stage, which is when it is terminal,' he explains.
'They are developing a blood test that will run in tandem with smear tests and mammograms, but the unit which is doning the research is facing closure. We need (pounds) 250,000 a year over the next four years to keep the unit open.'
He is persuading friends in the theatrical and music industries to help him stage the gala charity concert in the autumn. 'I am hoping to do it in the last week of September or the first week of October, whenever I can twist sombody's arm to give me a theatre to stage it in.
'We are trying to make it maily male performers, so that we have men raising money for women. No matter who you are, you have women who are important in your life, whether they be wives, girl-friends, mothers or aunties.
'It is important to keep this research going so that other women do not have to go through what Angela did.'
Michael Ball can never have had a better opporunity to persuade fellow performers to help him. His TV series, in which he sings with some of the greatest names in music, is a showcase for his remarkable voice.
tammy Wynette, Gloria Estefan, Take That!, Ray Charles, Montserrat Caballe, Cliff Richard, Wet Wet Wet and Dionne Warwick are among the legendary names dueting with him in the six-part series.
He says: 'It is nerve-racking, quite frankly, when I think about the sort of people I'm singing along with.
'I have chosen big stars who are the greatest in their field. Ray Charles is the king of soul, tammy Wynette is obviously the queen of country music, Montserrat Caballe is the greatest soprano there is, and you cannot name a better pop star than Cliff.'
Michael sings an Everly brothers medley with Cliff, Beautiful Heartache with RAy Charles, and All I ask of you from The Phantom Of The Opera with Caballe. The one song he was determined to sing solo, however, was A House Is Not A Home.
'I wanted to sing it solo because it means so much to me. Of all the songs I sing in the series, none carries as much significance.'
written by Garry Jenkins (July 1993)