COMPOSER MUSIC DIRECTOR RESEARCHER
WORLD WAR I CENTENARY
Strange Service for choir (SSAATTBB), organ and percussion was commissioned by Voce Chamber Choir, London (conductor Suzi Digby) and performed in November 2014. Strange Service superimposes a poem by Ivor Gurney with a 19th century German soldiers’song, & ‘Ich hatt einen Kameraden’, creating a new perspective in which soldiers on both sides of the war share a common sense of loss. Dreamlike descriptions of Gurney’s Gloucestershire hills and rivers contrast with the plodding conformity of a military drum.
Home by Christmas, a large-scale, semi-staged community cantata, was commissioned by Bristol Plays Music to mark the centenary of the outbreak of war. Following the lives of a young couple, Edward and Connie, from the golden months of the summer before the war, through their anxious letters sent between home and abroad, we arrive at the full horror of battle on the front. The work ends with the Christmas Truce, where soldiers on both sides (and audience) movingly sing Stille Nacht/Silent Night in both English and German.
This event involved almost 500 performers, including massed from Bristol’s Gurt Lush Choir (director Sam Burns) and UWE; a specially formed boys’ choir, symphony orchestra (Bristol Schools’ Philharmonia with UWE orchestra); three soloists (Esther Mallet, soprano, Matt Price, tenor and Martin lePoidevin, baritone) and audience participation. The work also included two interludes, ‘Waiting’ and ‘Shell Shock’, composed by A level student composers at local schools. Home by Christmas was performed at the Colston Hall, Bristol, in December 2014.
Strange Service - excerpt
Home by Christmas - Women of Britain - excerpt
Home by Christmas - Finale
It was conducted by Ian Holmes with stage direction by John Hartoch. Scoring: 2 fl (2 doubling piccolo), 2 ob, 2 cla, alto sax, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, piano, harp, organ, timpani, percussion (3 players).
‘. . a truly incredible premiere. . . the project did much more than commemorate an important moment in history. There was an overwhelming sense of community spirit and togetherness in the hall last night . .’
Director, Bristol Plays Music.
. . the most superb example of inspiring work involving so many participants of all ages and talents . . ‘. I, and many others I spoke to, were visibly moved at the end of the evening
Chair, Bristol Music Trust
photography by Theo Cottle