As the date for Florence and the Machine’s Austin show approached, Karinya Chen kept repeating a question to the staff at Hospice Austin: “Can I go?”
Chen had tickets to the May 19 show, but when the date arrived, she was too frail to attend. The 15-year-old high school freshman is battling cancer that was diagnosed five years ago.
So the show came to her. Singer Florence Welch and guitarist Rob Ackroyd performed a set in Chen’s hospice room last Friday—and Chen was ready with harmonies. She sang along with Welch, especially on one of her favorite songs, “Shake It Out,” as Welch sat on the bed and held her hand. Friends, family and staff joined in.
Karinya duet with Florence Singing "Shake It Out" Karinya duet with Florence Singing "Shake It Out"
Chen said she was “blown out of the water” by the fact that the band showed up after staff at Hospice Austin contacted the PR and management team.
“Florence is like this Amazonian of a woman, but she’s such a kind, benevolent, beautiful soul,” Chen said in an interview after the concert. “Lovely person, there’s no one like her.”
Florence Sings "Dog Days Are Over" Florence Sings "Dog Days Are Over"
Welch’s singular voice rang through the hospice, drawing a group to Chen’s room. Chen made sure both Welch and Ackroyd signed her arms with permanent marker before they left—Welch drew a rose and Ackroyd a flying heart.
She tearfully explained why “Shake It Out,” with the lyric “it’s always darkest before the dawn,” is a favorite.
“As a cancer patient, you learn not to take things for granted. Every day could be your last, so take one day at a time just like the songs says,” she said. “It has a special personal space deep in my heart.”