Songs for a beloved sister 

Humphrey Berney , member of the international classical singing group Blake

Humphrey Berney , member of the international classical singing group Blake, at his home in Bracon Ash where he will be hosting a concert in the grounds of the house to raise money for the Rose Berney Memorial Fund - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Humphrey Berney has sung for the Queen and toured the world. This month he brings classical chart-toppers Blake to his Norfolk garden in memory of his sister and will be singing the National Anthem at the Royal Norfolk Show

Humphrey Berney performs around the world but this year, alongside tours of Britain and Denmark, his band, Blake, has four concerts in Norfolk, beginning close to Humphrey’s heart – and home.  

Humphrey Berney , member of the international classical singing group Blake

Humphrey Berney , member of the international classical singing group Blake, at his home in Bracon Ash where he will be hosting a concert in the grounds of the house to raise money for the Rose Berney Memorial Fund - Credit: Sonya Duncan

On June 11 Blake will be playing in Humphrey’s garden at in Bracon Ash, near Wymondham. The concert was originally planned for 2020, to launch a charity fund in memory of his sister. 

Humphrey’s beloved sister Rose killed herself in 2005, aged just 28. She was a gifted singer but her soaring voice and devoted family could not save the former BBC Choirgirl of the Year finalist from being dogged by catastrophic depression.   

Now a concert is set to raise £20,000 for the Rose Berney Memorial Fund, which will support Norfolk mental health and suicide-prevention charities. 

“I believe with the right professional care Rose would still be alive,” said Humphrey. “The money we raise for her fund can help others and stop people taking their lives, as Rose did.” 

Humphrey misses his sister especially acutely when he sings. “We recorded a choral album together as well as performing some concerts,” he said. “I'm so sad my wife and daughters never had the chance to meet her and I really feel that loss at big family celebrations. I was very close to Rose. I miss her hugely.” 

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He hopes the sold-out concert on his front lawn will raise £20,000 for Rose’s memorial fund which is  administered by the Norfolk Community Foundation and has already given £10,000 to Yana (You Are Not Alone) which focuses on rural mental health support, and to the Sir Norman Lamb Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund. 

Humphrey Berney , member of the international classical singing group Blake

Humphrey Berney , member of the international classical singing group Blake, at his home in Bracon Ash where he will be hosting a concert in the grounds of the house to raise money for the Rose Berney Memorial Fund - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Rose Berney with her brother, Humphrey

Rose Berney with her brother, Humphrey - Credit: Berney family

Blake will be performing four concerts in Norfolk - beginning on band-member Humphrey Berney's front lawn

Blake will be performing four concerts in Norfolk - beginning on band-member Humphrey Berney's (left) front lawn - Credit: Blake

Ahead of the concert the other two members of Blake will be staying with Humphrey and his wife Charlotte and their two young daughters at Bracon Hall. “The boys have been up a few times and its always great to have them there,” said Humphrey. “This will be special. All of us together, with wives and partners and hundreds of friends and familiar faces to perform to.  

“My whole family will be there and involved. I don’t think my little girls [aged three and five] will be going to bed on time!” 

 Humphrey’s family has been rooted in Norfolk for at least eight centuries and Bracon Hall has been in the Berney family since 1749.  

“It needed a huge amount of work and so has been a true labour of love,” said Humphrey. “Charlotte is a fashion designer and a very talented interior designer which has been very helpful!” Now the house and grounds are frequently used for fashion shoots. 

Humphrey grew up in Hockering, near Dereham, the youngest of three children. A church chorister at seven, he was awarded a music scholarship to Gresham’s School where his talent was spotted by a visiting opera singer. He became the youngest ever member of the National Youth Chamber Choir and trained at the Royal Academy of Music. 

Blake, already famous for their combination of harmony and handsome, turned to Twitter when they wanted a new member – choosing Humphrey from 55,000 replies. 

The band has toured worldwide, performed in front of the Queen, appeared at the White House and at national and international sporting occasions and staged concerts for charities including Mind and Walking with the Wounded.  

On June 11 Blake will sing favourite songs at a rousing Prom-style celebration alongside acclaimed pianist Dominic Ferris, singers from Gresham’s School and a string quintet, formed for the occasion and including some of Rose’s childhood friends. 

“It is very positive that mental health is now something which is much more openly discussed,” he said. “However, despite there being some great people working in mental health in Norfolk it is an area which is still under-funded and under-resourced and suicide numbers are rising across the county and country. It is a very complicated situation. Many people have really struggled during the covid epidemic. Isolation combined with huge issues social media and other factors create means funds and support have never been so needed.” 

The sold-out concert at Bracon Hall on June 11, in aid of the Rose Berney Memorial Fund, will be followed by the chance to see Blake at the Royal Norfolk Show on June 29, King’s Lynn Corn Exchange on June 24 and the Maddermarket, Norwich, on September 17.  

If you need help, call NHS 111 and select option 2, or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services available 24 hours, seven days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple and Android.