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Bradford Festival Choral – We Will Remember
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
With the Great War came a sense of urgency as aspects of life were unwittingly concertinaed, lest the talent of an age was prematurely snuffed out by the brutality of barbaric combat, before it had committed its ideas and inspiration to paper.

This couldn’t have been more evident in conductor, Tom Leech’s programme for Bradford Festival Choral Society who, on the eve of Armistice Day, captured beautifully the elegiac sadness of a generation with their performance of We Will Remember at Bradford Grammar School.

Ivor Gurney was dead at 47 but left a legacy that most people twice his age would have struggled to pen. Unique in that he was both poet and composer his musical work, The Trumpet, was set to one of poet Edward Thomas’ 1916 verses courtesy of Philip Lancaster’s orchestration, and was a perfect prelude to the evening.

Throughout there was an overwhelming sense of sadness in the music, Rudolf Mauersberger bemoaning the human tragedy of the Dresden bombings in his Dresden Requiem, Wie liegt die Stadt, beautiful in its sound, tragic in its memory.

Everyone suffered on both sides.

Gerald Finzi was the composer whose respect for his teacher, mentor and friend, Ernest Farrar, was enough to inspire his first large scale work, Requiem da Camera, when Farrar was cut down at the Battle of the Somme.

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In choosing his programme Leech, and his wonderful choir, supported by talented soprano Bibi Heal and English Bass-Baritone Laurence Williams, allowed the tragedy, pathos, and heartbreak of a lost generation, to wash over the audience like a sea of ghosts returning to a world that forever seems on the brink of war.

“Merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest, eternal rest,” urged soprano Heal as she mouthed the words of Lili Boulanger, another brilliant composer claimed, tragically, when she was just 25.

And finally, there was the old man, Gabriel Faure who lived until he was just shy of 100. It was if God had given this composer the talent – and the privilege of a long life – so that he could speak for a lost generation; articulate their tears, catalogue their loss and urge a world to never forget.

His masterful work, Requiem, was rich with its focus on peace and resolution, and the Skipton Camerata orchestra, under Leech’s baton, captured the sense of devastation that the First World War left in its wake.

We Will Remember was an evocative night, all the more profound because it spoke of a time in history to which many audience members were still umbilically connected.

Both uplifting and sad, it left in its trail a range of emotions that should serve as a warning to those who would lead us into conflict in the name of ego or political vanity.

May we never forget this powerful evening.

Bradford Festival Choral – We Will Remember, 11th November 2018, 13:36 PM