It was splendid seeing our largest ever audience at the Helix Ensemble last month, and they were as excited at their welcome in Bingham as we were to have them perform. We very much hope to see them again next year.
In contrast to that larger scale and exuberant sound, we turn to a more intimate and reflective event comprising words and music: Casualties of War. This takes place at 7.30pm on Friday 13 November 2015 at Halam Court, Back Lane, Halam, NG22 8AG and the date of the event is significant, for Casualties of War is a personal anthology featuring Richard Roddis tenor, Clive Pollard piano, Rosalind Williams & Gillian von Fragstein readers that explores the legacy in poetry and song of Britain’s Lost Generation of World War I and of those other artists deeply affected by it. We know that the works of established composers and writers too old to fight in the conflict such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Kipling were themselves personally and profoundly affected by the losses on the Western Front. We also know of the war poets and their vivid descriptions anthologised in volumes evoking the pity of war, and we may know of composers such as Arnold Bax or Herbert Howells whose respective outputs produced public and private responses to the war. But other young artists, sometimes little more than students when the war broke out, saw the fighting and either lost their lives or lived to cope with a culture profoundly changed by the “war to end all wars”.
In this moving and beautiful evening, we encounter composers who left only a handful of pieces: W. Denis Browne, an immensely promising composer killed at Gallipoli in 1915, who was a friend of Rupert Brooke; George Butterworth, killed on the Somme in 1916, often held up as the emblem of lost talent; Ernest Farrar, killed on the Somme in 1918, known as Gerald Finzi’s first teacher but hardly remembered in his own right. We hear from the more familiar poets Edward Thomas, killed at Arras in 1917, initially a prose writer whose army pay allowed him to turn to poetry, Rupert Brooke, who died on the way to Gallipoli in 1915, and Wilfred Owen, killed at Ors in 1918 a week before the Armistice, but also from Francis Ledwidge who, despite being a supporter of Irish home rule, joined up to fight the common foe and was killed at Ypres in 1917. Straddling the two art-forms and prolific in both, Ivor Gurney survived the trenches but was committed to a mental asylum in 1922 until his death in 1937, and Gerald Finzi, who lived to secure a place in the pantheon of British composers, was deeply affected by the death of Farrar and his own brother Edgar, and continued to champion Gurney’s music
We who are left, how shall we look again / Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they, who went / Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us, loved, too, the sun and rain?
(Wilfrid Gibson, a friend of many of the artists represented, who commemorated Brooke and Browne in verse)
Tickets cost £12.50 and are available solely from me either by telephone on 01949 876147 or by e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org. Do remember that capacity is limited to 30 people for this exclusive event, so please contact me quickly.
Eight days later, at 7:30pm on Saturday 21st. November in Southwell Minster, Southwell Choral Society perform Requiem by Bob Chilcott, whom Gramophone Magazine described as “One of the finest choral composers at work in Britain today”. Also on the programme is the sublime Spirit of England by Edward Elgar, and this setting of poems by Laurence Binyon is one of the greatest responses to the Great War – unmissable!
Tickets are obtained by telephoning the Cathedral Shop on 01636 812933 – £15 front nave £12.50 rear nave £9 side aisle
With every good wish, and I look forward to seeing you at the performances.