In addition to big names like Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, who will be performing Sunday at the benefit concert to aid victims of the Ariana Grande concert terrorist attack, a lesser known act with their own personal connection will take the stage.
The Parrs Wood Harmony Group, a high school choir, were asked to participate in the event after Grande herself heard their rendition of her song “My Everything.” The singers — some of whom were at the May 22 show when the tragedy occurred — came together to raise money and pay their respects through music with the tune.
Musical director Daniel McDwyer tells PEOPLE the invitation to perform came as a complete surprise, as they were using the song to cope with the horrific attack.
“In a way it was just a way of keeping all of our minds busy — the young people and us adults as well,” he said. “As singers you sing all the time, so even when something like this happens you want to express your emotions through song. At the end of the day this is something completely about people who were injured and killed, so the main feeling was just ‘happy to be helping in any way that we can.'”
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Still, McDwyer says there are mixed emotions as the Sunday show approaches, especially for those students who were at Manchester Arena the night of the attack that killed 22 people and injured 119.
“As you can imagine, there’s going to be a mix of emotions: excited, nervous… some of the people actually in the choir were at the concert, so it’s going to be really hard for them. Obviously they’ve struggled and that was one of the massive reasons why we really wanted to do something as well — to actually support the people we knew personally affected by it. So it is going to be really difficult for them to do,” he shares. “They are amazing though. Everyone in the choir. I can’t stress how proud we all are of them because they’ve just been so professional the whole time. They got together and they just wanted to do something.”
And although they won’t be the most recognizable name on the lineup, the musical director says that all the acts share a common goal.
“No matter how famous you are we are all there for the same reason, doing it for the same reason and that’s to show our support to anyone that’s affected,” he says. “I really think it’s going to be a really beautiful tribute.”
“I am born and bred in Manchester, so I love this city and obviously like everybody else I was devastated when I heard the news,” McDwyer adds. “It’s been really great to see the way that everyone has come together and helped in whatever way they can. As a musician — as a singer — there’s not much that I feel I can do to help, but I do know that music can do some special things.”
All proceeds from the concert, taking place at the Emirates Old Trafford stadium in the city, are going to the Red Cross’s Manchester Emergency Fund to help victims and families impacted by the attack. Those who were at the original gig were offered free tickets, and additional tickets sold out in just six minutes.
The show is expected to bring in around $2.6 million.
Ahead of the concert, Grande visited the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where many of her young fans are being treated.
Grande announced plans for the show in a special Twitter message just four days after the tragedy.