Brighton Festival Chorus mark 100 years since the Battle of the Somme

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Brighton Festival Chorus (bfc) is joining Brighton Festival Youth Choir and the Arcadian Ensemble for a concert to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The concert will include works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edward Elgar, Herbert Howells, Tarik O’Regan, Hubert Parry, and Francis Purcell Warren.

The event will be on Friday, July 1, (7.30pm), at All Saints Church, The Drive, Hove.

Spokesman Matthew Ryan said: “It is believed that 133,000 British men died during the first Battle of the Somme including 20,000 on the first day alone. A generation of British composers born between the 1870s and 1890s died in the Great War including Francis Warren who was reported missing on July 3, 1916.

“Warren won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1910 where he became a firm friend of Herbert Howells. Warren enlisted as a private in September 1914 and was subsequently commissioned as an officer in March 1916, three months before his death.

“The concert opens with Warren’s setting of Ave Verum, written in 1912 when he was 17 years old. A bfc member will then read a speech given by Hubert Parry in memory of Francis Warren at the RCM. Howells’ Elegy for viola, string quartet and strings was also written in memory of his young friend.

“The first-half programme is interspersed with poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, and William Noel Hodgson, who died at the Somme on July 1, 1916.”

Matthew added: “There is an interesting link between the next composer featured and Sussex. The programme continues with Parry’s Jerusalem, written in 1916 while living in Rustington. This is followed by Elgar’s Give unto the Lord, written on the eve of the Great War in 1914.

“Brighton Festival Youth Choir will conclude the first half with a performance of Tariq O’Regan’s And There Was a Great Calm, inspired by the text of Thomas Hardy’s poem on the signing of the Armistice in 1918.

“The second half of the concert features Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem. Vaughan Williams was married in All Saints Church in 1897. He enlisted as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1914 at the age of 42. He joined a Field Ambulance unit and served as a stretcher-bearer during the Somme offensive, a highly risky and grim role.

“Dona Nobis Pacem is a compilation of movements written at different times in the composer’s life, unified by a symphonic conception. It was written as a prayer for peace in the light of the threat from Nazi Germany suggesting the likelihood of a second world war. Its message resonates through to the present century.”

James Morgan, music director of BFC, added: “It will be fascinating for us to explore the music of this period, as well as more recent music inspired by the events of the Great War. By placing the music we’re performing in its historical context, we hope we will bring it even more vividly to life for both audience and participants.”

BFC was founded in 1968 and its debut performance was Belshazzar’s Feast with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer William Walton.

It has established and maintained a reputation as a choir working with top professional orchestras and artists, delivering consistently high-quality performances. bfc is also known for its versatility as it performs not only the standard choral repertoire but also new works and commissions, and collaborations with popular music artists.

BFC performs in the Brighton Festival every year and at major concert venues in London, the rest of Britain and in Europe. Its many recordings include award-winning versions of Belshazzar’s Feast, Tippett’s A Child of Our Time and Debussy’s Le Martyre de St Sebastien, which won Le Choc de la Musique. BFC supports Brighton Festival Youth Choir to promote and sustain interest in choral singing in young people, and it also arranges choral workshops to encourage participation in the local community.

Tickets on 01273 709709 or via wwww.brightonticketshop.com.

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