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UD Low Down: RAYE x The Heritage Orchestra x Flames Collective @ O2, London

Flames Collective vocalist, Izzy Withers, 18, one of the newest members of the group, reports back on sharing the stage with RAYE and The Heritage Orchestra at the sold-out 02 show last week…  

My name is Izzy Withers and I’m a singer/songwriter who is part of the Flames Collective.

RAYE, who has been generous in creating opportunities for us, once again raised the stakes with Flames invited to perform with The Heritage Orchestra at her sold-out O2 show.  

The excitement and anticipation was palpable backstage at the O2 as myself and the other members of the Flames Collective prepared to take the stage alongside the incredible RAYE. As part of the choir, we were buzzing with excitement and nerves, knowing that this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We had been rehearsing for a few weeks making sure that this performance would be pitch perfect. 

Flames Collective with Andy & Kadi

I am quite new to Flames but despite only joining in October, I already feel as though I have a second family. The Flames Collective have already performed with RAYE at Glastonbury, her Royal Albert Hall show, the BRIT Awards, the Jonathan Ross show, a secret Hilton gig – I had a lot to catch up on. Thankfully, everyone really took me under their wings to help me get up to speed.  

We had rehearsals during half-term, which consisted of lots of line learning, snack eating and laughing. One thing I love about the Flames Collective is how much of a bond everyone shares with each other. As I moved away from home a couple of years ago, to come to London at a very young age, finding spaces and people that feel like family is increasingly important to me and I feel so grateful to have that with Flames. Getting to sing together, grow together and perform at amazing events like this is dreamy.  

The rehearsals went well, as I mentioned before, I had A LOT to learn, as not only were we performing with RAYE for one night only at the O2, but the rehearsals doubled up for the BRITs performance, a couple of weeks prior. Having loved RAYE’s music for a long time, I already knew a lot of the words, however there was a lot of harmonies to learn! But learn them we did.  

We had our final rehearsal on the Tuesday of that week and invited the rest of Flames to come and watch (there are new recruits waiting in the wings, but everyone gets a chance to shine). Everyone was so supportive.  

Then, before we knew it, show day was upon us. We then had to be at North Greenwich for 9am on the Friday. It was set to be a long day, but we all arrived at North Greenwich station ready to take on this amazing opportunity. I felt incredibly excited and ready to go!  

When everyone had arrived, we found our dressing room and got ready to get onto the stage to do a rehearsal and find out how we would be standing on the night. We got to hear the incredible Heritage Orchestra too – for me it was the first time I’d heard them playing so it all felt very surreal.  

@flamescollective

You had to be there to see it ! Vlog coming soon ???? #raye #fyp #viral #orchestral #historicalmoments

♬ original sound – FLAMES

Photo: Nigel R Glasgow

It went well, but we were all so taken aback by the sheer size of the O2 and how many people would be in the room later that day. This was actually our second time performing at the O2 (although it was a very different set-up to the BRIT Awards). Since I can remember I have wanted to be a singer, to perform on huge stages to sold out audiences, so it was a definite pinch me moment. 

After our rehearsal, we all made our way to lunch to get filled up before the show. Back in our dressing room and I secured a spot near the mirror. We all begun to get ready, and then had a dress run of the whole show. We were all buzzing. Before we made our way down to the stage all dressed up, our Musical Director, Andy Gilbert, got us to practice. We ran through the majority of the set and got to take some pictures. We then did our dress run which thankfully went very smoothly. All the lights were on and the venue was completely decorated, ready for a night to remember.  

We had a couple of hours to kill before the show: we all sung and laughed whilst getting dressed and helping each other do makeup. It was such a wholesome experience. We played games and I even had time for a nap! We had some dinner which fuelled us further for the busy night ahead.  

After this we got into our line up, prepared to go out on stage. A few of us did a little prayer with Andy filming us as we went on. Stepping onto the stage, the bright lights and sea of faces in the audience really took our breaths away and a wave of adrenaline hit us all. We stood side by side and felt a sense of unity as we prepared to deliver a performance to remember. 

Photo: Nigel R Glasgow
Photo: Nigel R Glasgow

With RAYE’s powerful vocals leading the way, we added our harmonies and energy, and I really tried to take the moment as best as I could. The energy in the arena really was electric, and I felt like I was dreaming. But what made the experience truly special was the feeling among us all as performers – the Flames family.  

Photo: Nigel R Glasgow

Despite the potential nerves and pressure to do our best, there was a real sense of support and unity that brought out the best in each of us. We had come so far since the early rehearsals, to the dress runs and backstage practices to these final moments on stage, we shared so many laughs, so much love and a mutual passion for music and singing.  

As RAYE’s performance drew to a close and the audience started to cheer, I felt such a big sense of pride and accomplishment. I even felt a little tear on my cheek (but I am quite dramatic). Being part of such a memorable performance at the O2 was a dream come true, and we were grateful for the opportunity to share our talent with the world too.  

Photo: Nigel R Glasgow

All we could do after was soak in the moment, celebrate together, watching our performance on social media backstage – I even received messages from people who had seen me on the big screen when they were watching in the audience. We all knew that this was just the beginning of an exciting journey for us – we can’t forget RAYE’s speech either. If she ever gets the budget to take us on a world tour of ‘My 21st Century Symphony’ or anything else for that matter, we’re all here for it!  

Photo: Nigel R Glasgow
@flamescollective

We cant get over what an incredible night the O2 was!! WE LOVE YOU RAYE????????❤️ #my21stcenturyblues #fyp #flamescollective_ #foryou #fypシ゚viral #raye #o2arena #harmonies

♬ original sound – FLAMES

I think I speak for all of us when I say how honoured we feel to have shared the stage with such an incredible artist and human being. RAYE is such an inspiration, especially to me, a young mixed race up and coming artist. She has shown the next generation of artists that you can do it alone, stay true to yourself and to fight for what you believe in. I know that she has opened conversations for many important topics, even if she was the only one talking, and for this reason I think she is so incredible. 

Photo: Nigel R Glasgow

The memories that I made on that stage and the journey of getting there will be cherished forever. I feel so honoured to be in the Flames Collective and can’t wait to be a part of what we do next. Watch this space for what’s next (and don’t forget to run up our new single, ‘FaceTime’) or follow us on Instagram or TikTok (if you’re partial to videos of vocal harmonies).  

@flamescollective

Another show for the history books, one we’ll never forget. Thanks as always to Queen @Raye and her band and team for treating us like family and trusting us with the vision. To work with the Heritage Orchestra again was a dream we are still replaying. Thanks to everyone supporting us, we really appreciate it????????????????????❤️❤️❤️❤️ FLAMES TAKEOVER!! #my21stcenturyblues #fyp #foryou #flamescollective_ #fypシ゚viral #raye #o2arena #livemusic #escapism

♬ original sound – RAYE Stan

And don’t forget, if you’re aged 14-18 and think you’ve got what it takes to join Flames Collective, our next auditions are on Tuesday April 16th at Talent House. Find out all the details and register your interest HERE.  

Words: Izzy Withers  

Photography: Izzy Withers & Nigel R Glasgow

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