Friday, 9 November 2012

10 & 11 November


              CB Remembrance
 
This programme is a repeat from last November.  At the close of the script, we append a 7 poem-sequence written by Mike Burrows for Remembrance Weekend, of which this sonnet forms a part:
 
 
                 (Homes Fit For Heroes)

            They march towards me, in fours of all hope
            To now, crumpled and muddy, their helmets
            Dipped or level-brimmed, their rifles a-slope
            On pack-blistered shoulders, and bayonets
            Hanging in scabbard:  they swing the free arm,
            Their spare figures upright to the pale neck,
            Some with undone collars.  They swing by farm
            And up streets, and the push goes without
                                                                       check.
            No snipers, no mortars, no machine-guns -
            No booby-traps.  They will take the country.
            God knows, they did not expect it - it stuns
            So that they do not ask how silently
            They sing, tread or banter - or how the land
            Ignores them.  They will never understand.  


 
Intro:  Gas-bombardment and Tipperary

 

This is Classical Break on SomerValley 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 1939 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

 

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

 

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 ttempt to bring in wounded from no-mans-land.

 

Track Three:  Behind The Lines - Cortege - Cecil Coles

 

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 our greatest loss.    

 

Track Four:  On The Idle Hill of Summer, Butterworth

 

Ivor Bertie Gurney (1890-1937) 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 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

 

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 1hostilities.  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

 

 

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 1songs - 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

 

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

 

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.  It has been a long way to where we are, a long way further than that to Tipperary.  What did the dead die for?  How many must be reduced to Gurney’s words:

 

“Cover him, cover him soon!

And with thick-set

Masses of memoried flowers -

Hide that red wet

Thing that I must somehow forget.”    

 

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 modal implication of the flattened note is the stubborn refusal of folk-scales to be academic.  Also, it is like an early kind of blues and a statement of the personal, peculiarly sombre, heard clearly amid a war of unprecedented mechanization, organization and slaughter. A fallen distortion of the expected octave expresses a reaction to where Man in his pride has fallen.   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 soon. 

Goodbye!

 

Track Nine:  A Pastoral Symphony, 2nd Movt, Lento Moderato, Vaughan Williams

 
  Seven Poems For Remembrance Weekend
 
 
           1-2   Two Poems In Memory of
                                Ivor Gurney,
                         Musician and War-poet,
                                 1890-37,
                           And His Glosters

 

            Gurney?  I remember him.  Queer ways he had.
            As the wind whoops again in unsplintered
            Branches, he was one scared of, yet made
                                                                    glad
            By loneliness, his marching stride deferred
            For this or that solitude in a place
            Found rarely and commonly.  There is
            His thin figure, his restless, thinking pace
            Eating up the miles on good days, and his
            Own burning pride not eating.  Autumn air
            Inspirited the ethics that drove him;
            Seems grey on baring trees whose leaf-tints
                                                                       share
            Copper or gold as freely.  Vision aswim
            Knows this for illusion - the sky is blue
            On lane’s and trees’ darkness and mysteries
            Of who knows whose tangle shadowed to
                                                                       view,
            But green and stubborn in earth, though
                                                                   berries
            Choke shrivelled in mould for the not-
                                                                 picking.
            Cloud is sweeping so that one thinks at
                                                                    times
            From a cursory glance that from sticking
            Nothing gathers above rooks or clear
                                                             chimes -
            A far clock whose hour is ever at hand
            Made watery by damp air.  Though the
                                                                 land
            Is wet and leaves blacken as yesterday’s
            Fallen or those of a week or hours past,
            One need not expect rain and see the
                                                                rays
            Of white sun in time turn to sunset’s steadfast
            Yellow fireshine sink, man’s work-room 
                                                                 forestalled
.           Or redoubled in associate glory.         
            The hardness of hobnails and soles meets
                                                                 metalled
            Lanes here with every step, in history
            Flanked in the four and with full equipment,
            Swinging on down broad ways, the cap-badge
                                                                      flashing
            Brass Gloucestershire in a magnificent
            Everyone.  In the worst of sky-gashing
            Darkness, fire and burning-cold rain,
                                                                   unsure
            Of step on greasy mud or wood, the Sphinx
            Was a memory with formal censure
            Of muttered songs or still-here, gap-toothed
                                                                     winks -
            As helmet-brims dipped or stayed level in
            Shifting:  but an honour.  He feels them
                                                                       still,
            To be his four’s forty-stone, and so win
            There amid fours with the same toiling will.
            Let the badge flame and the Sphinx smile
                                                                     as all
            March home out of trodden-down black,
                                                                spotless
            And neat from cap to boots - unnatural
            Neatness come to tight-wound puttees -
                                                               their dress
            Under a mystery the truth of their Shire,
            Yet none have to find honour under fire.

 

                  Ivor Beegy

 

            A small Celtic cross of stone, with sundown
            Behind it and, on the stepped plinth, details
            Such as nothing here knows; light at the crown
            Streams gold under a broad, storm-grey sky
                                                               to Wales.

            Here he lies in the crowded churchyard next
            To a friend’s son in the green but bleak plain,
            Facing away, the slim-spired church
                                                             unperplexed,
            Close though no New Life shows in light and
                                                                          rain.

 

 

            3          (Homes Fit For Heroes)



            They march towards me, in fours of all hope
            To now, crumpled and muddy, their helmets
            Dipped or level-brimmed, their rifles a-slope
            On pack-blistered shoulders, and bayonets
            Hanging in scabbard:  they swing the free arm,
            Their spare figures upright to the pale neck,
            Some with undone collars.  They swing by farm
            And up streets, and the push goes without
                                                                   check.
            No snipers, no mortars, no machine-guns -
            No booby-traps.  They will take the country.
            God knows, they did not expect it - it stuns
            So that they do not ask how silently
            They sing, tread or banter - or how the land
            Ignores them.  They will never understand.  

 

           

            4        (On A Cartoon)

 

            His dreams now down to a Sunday morning,
            He has no real complaint.  Planes and beeches
            And cypresses wave to him, and their scorning
            Others is no surprize as all teaches
            Him to let fellows go their way and feel
            Pleasure at friendliness.  Behind him is
            His shade, its ported rifle tipped with steel,
            Its helmeted physique the form once his.
            Trim and tough to the gaitered boots, its pace
            Is his, and the yarn of it fully grown
            Would startle even him if he could face
            It as he does his age now he’s alone,
            But he totters clubward East and then West
            Early and at sunset at the latest.

 


             5  (For The Fallen 1)

 
           No-one need post them at rest, and the sun
           And snatched sleep are nothing to do with it;
           There is a point where too smartly begun
           Must end without those who, in the spirit
           Of the times, had no sure notion of what
           They served, but served to the utmost of
                                                                breath.
           In stone or bronze, their soul is and is not -
           Or in each face tumbled to muddy death.
           Stone and bronze harden from the shade of clay
           Or fire - from discolouration whose stench
           Swelled after half-closed eyes had sunk away -
           And feel nothing of a departure’s wrench,
           Or the warm hand nipped by a cheap
                                                             tag-chain -
           And still, poppies bloody the winter rain.

 

             6        (For The Fallen, 2)

            Freedom can seem worse than even defeat.
            Sorrow or sense of futility crown
            One’s best efforts with rain; the humdrum
                                                                  street
            Mirrors grey cloud and masonry; the town
            Cuts all it does not know.  Head bowed, he
                                                                      stands,
            Water dripping from the brim of his helmet,
            The barrel of his rifle grasped in hands
            Of the same bronze.  His face is lean and set.
            He cannot blink; his eyes are averted
            But open to whomever soul confronts
            And shames; on plaques below are concerted
            All those whose gaze is focusless and blunts
            Ennui or confusion with this:  the dead
            Ward the nameless who must live in their
                                                                     stead.

 


            7  Envoi:  Elegy

                 A two-minute letter to you:
            By dawn or noon or flare-lit night,
            You were brave to come through,
            And not because you wished to fight.
           
            You witness how we are and long
            To see your kind well-rid of fear,
            To outmatch death, too strong
            Not to strive and come through here.
           
            Ghosts do not cower beneath thunder,
            And the armour of crowd-control
            Wrought by brutes goes under,
            Crushed by their impalpable soul.
           
            Condemned, kettled, beaten or shot
            As is our fundamental right,
            We see shapes who are not -
            The souls that haunt all soulless might.
           
            You millions who went under!
            Evil will fall without the word
            Of bugles and thunder
            Of guns, when your silence is heard.

        
 
            Copyright, Mike Burrows, 11-13/11/11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
 
 
 
Post a Comment