Wednesday, 9 November 2011

November 12th and 13th, 2011

SCRIPT: Remembrance

Intro:  Gas-bombardment and Tipperary

This is Classical Break on Somer
Valley FM and I’m Rupert Kirkham. 
Today’s programme is an anthology of
music inspired by war and dedicated
in respectful remembrance to the armed
forces personnel and civilians of all
nations who have endured the conflicts
of the past ninety-seven years. 

Let’s go back to the year
that the First World War, the
Great War, broke out, and hear
a patriotic song of the period,
performed by Helen Clarke and Chorus
and recorded in 1914. Your
King And Country Want you.  Such
a gulf of experience lies between
it and the art-music that
came of this terrible time and
successive decades, even though many would
face up to the end of
Britain’s policy of appeasement in 19-
39 with a sense of moral
release, and popular songs then spoke,
for instance, of hanging out our
washing on the Siegfried Line.  Your
King And Country Want You.   

Track One:  Your King And Country Want You (3.50 min)

This is Classical Break on Somer
Valley FM, and I’m Rupert Kirkham. 
Today’s programme is an anthology of
music inspired by war and remembrance.

By 1918, Goodbye-ee was the
kind of song that appealed to
those about to go overseas.  No
contemporary patriotic song was popular in
the British armed forces at any
time during the War.  They sang
nostalgic songs, they sang dirty songs,
they sang folksongs, music-hall songs,
and, most of all, songs of
futility and getting through somehow - or
not.  We’re here because we’re here
was sung to the tune of
Auld Lang Syne - just those words,
none other, repeated with dull insistence
on the rhythm of the old
tune, and they loved the sardonic
Goodbyee.  Sadly, those who marched out
to Goodbyee faired as badly as
those who had gone before them: 
it was Spring, 1918, the
Eastern front had closed and the
Germans were about to launch their
last great offensive.

Track Two:  Goodby-ee (1.47min)

Here is Cortege, a movement of
a projected Suite for Small Orchestra,
Behind The Lines, by the Scottish
composer, Bandmaster Cecil Coles (1888-
1918).  It had to be
scored for performance by Martyn Brabbins
to be performed;  the blood-spattered
manuscript was sent home with other
personal effects from France, after its
largely German-trained composer, a friend
of Gustav Holst, died from wounds
received in an attempt to bring
in wounded from no-mans-land.

Track Three:  Behind The Lines - Cortege - Cecil Coles (5.39 min)

George Sainton Kaye Butterworth (1885-
1916) was a friend of
Vaughan Williams, an Old Etonian who
studied Classics at Oxford.  He was
briefly music master at Radley College,
a collector of folk-music and
talented morris-dancer.  As a composer,
he knew a brief period of
maturity and served as a 2nd Lt
in the Durham Light Infantry.  Recommended
for award of the Military Cross
during service during the Somme Campaign,
he was shot through the head
by a sniper before he could
receive his medal.  A brief attendance
at the Royal College of Music
in 1911 perhaps told him
that he knew what he needed
to know; certainly, Vaughan Williams never
got over the death of a
staunch friend whose guidance in musical
matters had always been fruitful and
whose own slender output - four orchestral
pieces - three of them based on
folksongs - three song-cycles and arrangements
of 21 Sussex Folksongs - remain
works of sheer and profound inspiration
to this day.

Here is his song from
his second cycle of Housaman settings,
Bredon Hill And Other Songs, On
The Idle Hill Of Summer:  it
tells of how manhood answers the
summons of army drums heard however
distantly, leaving idleness and a beloved
behind.  Of all the War’s killed
musicians, Butterworth was possibly our greatest loss.    

Track Four:  On The Idle Hill of Summer, Butterworth (3.01 min)

Ivor Bertie Gurney (1890-19-
37) was the casualty who did
not die. His wounds were slight,
but the damage to his personality
and welfare were incalculable.  He joined
the army in the same year
that Coles did and served for
a year in the trenches, narrowly
missing the bloody Paschendaele campaign of
late 1917, when he inhaled
gas and was invalided home.  Like
Coles, he achieved composition in the
front-line, in his case, four
songs, instinct with either nostalgia
for prewar Gloucestershire or close personal
identification with the poets of his
day and of the Elizabethan and
Jacobean ages.  His style is hard
to describe.  He was capable of
writing light parlour-songs, songs that
owe much to Stanford - his teacher -
and Elgar, and songs in the
arioso style of the Seventeenth and
Eighteenth Century, but all his songs
justify the use of the word
Gurneyesque.  He took what he found
and made it anew.  He can
conjure up an astonishing vivid simplicity,
as in his setting of the
poem, At A Bierside, by Masefield.  
This processional aches with humanity and
nobility:  if anyone has to ask
why Gurney and his generation chose
to fight, this song written to
the low trembling light of a
candle-dip as he worked when
he could and his neighbours turned
over and slept where they lay,
may at least serve to show
what was believed in.  An elegy
to all who fell, all who
lived, fought and slept about him,
all who lived to drag on
disabled lives in peacetime and support
their loved ones if they could. 
The sanity of art was the
sanity of compassion, deep feeling, the
impulse to seek and create beauty
out of what Keats called the
holiness of the heart’s affections.  With
good reason, Gurney is perhaps the
best-loved as well as one of the more-
-admired of our soldier-muscian casualties. 

Track Five:  By A Bierside, Gurney (4.06 min)

If Gurney cited the folk- and
army songs of his fellow-soldiers
in letters and poems, there was
no doubt as to which Ivor
won the war so far as
Gurney’s tailor- and ex-soldier-brother
Ronald was concerned.  Why couldn’t Ivor
be like Ivor Novello, and make
money?  “His mind is a huge
unwieldy mess,” he told one of
Gurney’s London friends after the poet-
-composer was committed to a mental
hospital in September, 1922.

Let’s hear the wartime hit, Keep
The Home-fires Burning on penny-
piano, a popular mechanical music-maker.

Track Six:  Keep The Home-fires burning, Ivor Novello (1.47 min)
Remembrance Day falls on November the
11th, the eleventh hour of the
eleventh day.  For over ninety years
we have placed poppy-wreathes and
sounded bugles over local monuments and
war-cemeteries.  On that date and
at that time, the Armistice ended hostilities. 
Even so, some soldiers died
in sporadic actions after silence had
fallen on the many sectors of
Europe’s greatest bid for mass-
suicide.  others lived on, horribly torn
and disfigured or living with the
deepening despair of lung and heart-
damage brought on by breathing poison
gas.  Mental injuries, shellshock, paranoia, speech-
problems and unwanted thoughts prevented the
resettlement in peacetime society of others. 
The War ended for most, to
be followed by a period of
harsh social and economic conditions during
which wealth reestablished methods of predatory
capitalism, In many countries, failure of
investment brought on by self-preservation
of capital and the problems of
national debt and reparations caused mass-
unemployment, homelessness and the punishment of
so-called idleness by a refusal
to assist the needy with finance.

There were no progressive social programmes
of social insurance and healthcare in
Britain, while, as in wartime, the
wealthy coined it and avoided all
the real material and spiritual privations
visited on the lower orders.  The
defeated lands, reconfigured to form new
independent countries and forced to pay
huge reparations by peace-treaties endured
endless suffering, but austerity ruled in
even lands that called themselves victors,
nowhere more cruelly than in ours. 
It was as though huge wagers
had been made and lost; the
man in the street must work
off the debts - if he could
find work.  If the poor were
angry, they were brave; the rich
led them and were mad.  In
unreconstructed nation-states and economies such
as Imperial Great Britain’s, worse fiscal
stringency and stock-market irresponsibility were
on the way, and true Slump. 
Do you recognize this world?


Track Six: Symphony No 6 in E Minor, 1st Movt, Vaughan Williams (8.18 min)

That was the first movement of
Vaughan Williams Symphony No 6 in
E Minor, of 1947.  At
the time of its first performance,
the Second World War had just
ended, a time of austerity and
resettlement begun; former allies sat in
two vast camps and confronted eachother
with the assurance that they would
destroy their enemy morally or militarily. 
To end the Second World war,
whose mechanized character, logistics, scope and
savagery had quite eclipsed that of
the First, conventional bombing had devastated
Germany and Japan, and atomic bombs
had been dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki, possibly to inform the Soviet
Union of the Western Allies’ means
of predominance in any post-war
settlement.  As in this music, songs
of brotherhood, however beautiful, however humane
and aspiring, were crushed. 

Many heard in the Symphony’s cruel
violence, raging, twisted compound-time rhythms,
obsessive fanfares, jazz-inflected satire and
ultimate long-drawn-out hushedness that
ends on alternating major and minor
chords, the hubris and apocalyptic horror
of an atomic war.  The critic
Frank Howes described it as a
‘War Symphony’.  The composer retorted that
it never seemed to occur to
some people that a man might
just want to write a piece
of music!  One can be on
both sides in this matter.  He
had written a 4th Symphony, full
of the 1930’s nightmare and
the cantata, Dona Nobis Pacem for
peace.  In 1943, he had
written his autumnally glowing 5th Symphony,
a vision that owed something to
that soul of England, the John
Bunyan of The Pilgrim’s Progress, and
in 1945, a Song of Thanksgiving.  Now,
the 6th seemed minatory as had
the 4th, if anything, it seemed
more frightening still: so was the age.

In 1939, the First World
War had seemed European Man’s best
effort to destroy himself.  Few of
those who had known it could
stomach the idea of a second
If it could be avoided.  In
Britain and her dominions alone, they
remembered the loss of nearly nine
hundred thousand lives.  Perhaps the world’s
losses stood at ten million, perhaps
they had been higher.  That there
was optimism during the Second World
War was partly down to popular songs –
anyone middle-aged or older
can reel off the names of
a half-dozen of these even
after seventy years - popular classical concerts
by figures such as Myra Hess
and military-sponsored musicians, leaders of
dance-bands mostly, and newsreel, documentary-
and feature-film music.  Recorded music
became public during war-years in which
armed forces personnel and war-workers
were beguiled by cinema, radio and
tannoy as they relaxed or strove.

An example of popular war-music
from those days is Eric Coates’
brightly-scored march, Calling All Workers. 
Similarities  between its material and working-
out and those of the same
composer’s Dambusters March are instructive.  The
Dambusters has a far better trio.

Track Seven:   Calling All Workers, Eric Coates (3.20 min)

Clifton Parker’s Seascape, from his score
for the Crown Film Unit’s Western Approaches -
which was unusual in being made
in colour - shows another face of
music for a purpose, finely evocative
and mysterious in its wash of
sound: it invites the long view,
as in 1944.

Track Eight:  Seascape, Clifton Parker (4.11 min) 

Even before the end of the
War, the British - many under arms -
chose overwhelmingly for the future - the
National Coalition fell and was replaced
by Labour:  to create a welfare
state in which all were supported
by the nation and the judgement
of deserving and undeserving that had
permitted the rich to tyrannize the
less-well-off seemed to die;
private speculation, estates and ownership were
strictly regulated and taxed; living conditions,
health and safety and employment rights
were strictly regulated; strategic industries, the
railways, the public utilities, too, would
be controlled by the people through
the ballot-box - and funds for
education, social services, social and
medical insurance were made good by
progressive central taxation based on the
ability to pay, surely the only
logical method if public welfare is
the aim.  Everyone’s allegiance might ultimately
be to the King, but now,
there was a commonwealth within this
country’s borders as well as without.
This was perhaps a land fit
for the heroes of 1945,
certainly, it seemed worthy of the
British lawyers who drew up the
UN’s Human Rights Accord - the
basis of the
European Court
- in
the post-war period.  Those who stand
for two minutes of silence in
remembrance of primitive modern man should
contemplate the millions of people throughout
the world who have paid with
their lives for our empires and
wars. 

To end, here is the lento
moderato slow movement of Vaughan Williams’
3rd Symphony, The Pastoral, completed
in 1920.  This was Vaughan
Williams’ War Symphony.  Predominantly slow-moving
and developed from pentatonic motifs strongly
of folksong, this contains at least
one very definite attempt at reportage: 
He served as an ambulance-driver
and later artillery-officer, though forty-
-two at the outbreak of war. 
At sunset, from a hill above
camp near Ecoivres, he viewed a
Corot-like landscape and heard a
bugler practise; every time the man
sounded his call, he played a
seventh instead of an octave.  In
prosaic life one finds the
uncanny, the poetic, the meaningful.  The
trumpet in C sounds this tommy’s
peculiar variation on the official call;
in the restatement, the more shady
French horn replaces the trumpet - dusk
is further advanced. 
The portrayal of dusk is as
cool and subduedly colourful; a bugle
in light, a French horn in
last light; trees rustle in the
strings, their rising, then hushing sounds
are almost like a nurse’s tending
voice and hands; birdcall-like, woodwind
wind about the calls of the
bugler, answering a little in canon -
all rises to a passion twice,
and falls away, at last falling
away into night, sleep, rest.  Wherever
the Lord is, the countryside and
bugler seem to be with us. 
This was Classical Break on Somer
Valley FM, and I’m Rupert
Kirkham.  Today’s script was written and
researched by Mike Burrows.  Keep the
two-minute silence with your own
counsel and join us again next time. 
Goodbye!
Track Nine:  A Pastoral Symphony, 2nd Movt, Lento Moderato, Vaughan Williams (8.O9 min)   
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