It filled St Ann’s Square in Manchester. A majestic, deep, scalp-tingling, rendition of a Philadelphia soul classic. Lou Rawls’ ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ sounding refined and real rather than strangled in a karaoke bar. The voice came from a man in his 50s who then delivered equally stunning performances of classical music. He was not your average busker. People stopped, listened, and put money in a blanket he placed on the paving. His undoubted ability triggered spontaneous applause. My own daughter walked over with a couple of pound coins for him. Then, so to speak, the penny dropped. This man was clearly a trained professional reduced to singing on Manchester’s streets in the summer sun. It is for the likes of him that musical director Tom Newall has done something remarkable. He has lost eight stones in just over a year.
Tom Newall, musical director of Salford Choral Society, when he weighed 20 stone. He has now slimmed down to 12 stone. He has donated 50kg of food – the amount he shed in weight – to a charity
That was an astounding achievement itself. But then Tom chose to donate 50kg in food – the amount he had lost in weight – to Salford Foodbank. Tom, 33, said: “I chose that cause for two reasons. The Salford Choral Society, for whom I am musical director amongst others, has donated to it in the past, as a local charity. “We have heard so much about the importance of food banks during lockdown and one aspect of it has been very humbling. “Many musicians have lost their income completely and fallen through the gap in government funding. “They have not qualified for the support scheme and are having to survive on less than £100 a week on Universal Credit, and turned to food banks. “I have been eligible for support but I’ve friends and colleagues that have been less fortunate.” Tom is passionate about opera. And for most of his adult life he carried the kind of weight associated with some of its most famous male singers. But he says pure pop played a part in his weight loss regime – plus the loss of most of his own work schedule. “My weight has been up and down over the years. It is no secret that people in the music industry struggle to balance a healthy lifestyle with an often crazy and erratic working life. “I was eating at all times day and night combined with the lethal addition of alcohol. “I had been on tour last year and I just had a moment of revelation. I was at the bar after each performance – beer, wine, and gin – but not all together. “And found myself surrounded by Deliveroo packages. I just suddenly realised I can’t health at risk like this. “Stopping drinking for a year – which I reached this May was the catalyst for starting to lose weight. “I was about three quarters of the way towards my target weight when lockdown started. With most of my work cancelled it really gave me something to work on.” His weight dropped from just under 20 stone to 12 stones. His diet has changed dramatically. “For a period I had just 500 calories a day twice a week. It was hard, but I adapted. “I know have a personal trainer and run 40k a week. I have been running around Salford Quays where I live and along the Bridgewater Canal towpaths. “All my work evaporated but that spurred me on to get fit. However I don’t want to work while I’m working out, so if I listened to music while exercising it was cheesy pop like Elton John or Celine Dion – not classical. “Now I’ve hit my target, I wanted to buy the weight to quantify the weight I’d lost, but then realised I could also do my bit to help my local community at the same time.
Tom Newall before his astonishing weight loss
“I feel amazing. I am so energised and my head has never been clearer. It is another level of energy.” Mervyn Gledhill, Food Bank Coordinator for Salford Foodbank, said: “We want to thank Tom Newall for his generous donation. His personal achievement is incredible. We wish him and his work with Salford Choral Society every success into a post-pandemic future.” Salford Foodbank was started seven and a half years ago, and is part of the Trussell Trust network of foodbanks. However it almost closed last year as funding dried up. Thanks to grants and support from local funding this was averted. When their previous premises were due for demolition, they were gifted their present warehouse location in Kansas Avenue. The charity has done doorstep deliveries through the months of lockdown.
Tom Newall (left) donating 50kg of food to Mervyn Gledhill, Salford Food Bank Co-ordinator
They are now beginning to see clients again, with Salford Loaves and Fishes and GoChurch hosting distribution centres in Salford, five more of which will be opening next month. Salford Choral Society had previously donated the proceeds of the raffle at their Christmas Concert at St Thomas’s Church, Pendleton, to Loaves and Fishes who run a drop-in centre. ‘Tom has been an inspiration to many with his mammoth weight loss, we have watched him shrink over the months’, says Claire Pallett, Chair of Salford Choral Society. She added: “His determination has been impressive. He has kept the choir going since we stopped meeting for rehearsals in March. “Week on week he has developed online conducting, even singing and recording all the parts for us to practice. “His donation to Salford Food Bank is typical Tom, thinking of others and doing what he can to help others along the way.’ The 100-strong choir had a virtual concert on July 4th when the summer concert would have taken place. If the choir is still not able to meet in September when rehearsals would normally begin, Tom intends to do the same for Mozart’s Requiem, which was scheduled to be performed at the Royal Northern College of Music in November. Apart from his work with Salford Choral, Tom is also Music Director of Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra which he founded in in 2014 to give aspiring professional musicians experience in a high-quality ensemble, helping to bridge the gap between a player’s studies and professional orchestras. Tom has worked with Leeds Youth Opera, Flatpack Music, Fulham Opera and Manchester Opera Project. In Summer 2019, he made his debut at Buxton International Festival and was scheduled to return this summer. He is dedicated to music education and has worked on a number of outreach projects for Blackburn Cathedral and Opera North, as well as undertaking many guest orchestral conducting engagements.