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Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra’s WW1 Armistice Centenary Commemoration Project

The Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra (WSO) is partnering with Worcester Cathedral, The Rivers Church of England Multi-Academy Trust and BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester in a special project that will be central to Worcestershire’s commemorations of the Centenary of the WW1 Armistice later this year.  The project will culminate in a charity fundraising concert in Worcester Cathedral on Saturday 10th November, the second half of which will be a performance of Laura Rossi’s ‘Voices of Remembrance’ featuring the Worcester Cathedral Choir and narrators from BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester. 

Concert planning is being supported by the Worcestershire Branch of SSAFA (the Soldiers, Sailors and Air Force Association) who, together with the Royal British Legion and ABF (The Soldiers’ Charity) will be the beneficiaries of the event, with at least £5 from every ticket sold (priced at £20, £15 and £10) being donated to the three military charities.  SSAFA’s involvement will ensure that the audience includes a significant number of serving and former service personnel and senior representatives of the three charities.

‘Voices of Remembrance’ received its World Premiere in November 2015.  It is an orchestral and choral work featuring readings of First World War poetry, written to commemorate and remember the soldiers who lived, fought and died in the Great War. 

Laura Rossi will be attending the concert in person in order to describe her inspiration for writing the piece and to introduce the performance.  The concert is to be filmed, recorded and simultaneously projected onto a large screen at the front of the Cathedral to ensure that all of the audience can enjoy a good view throughout the proceedings.  Following the event, a recording of the concert will be donated to the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service for future reference purposes, along with other material relating to the Worcestershire World War 100 programme of commemorative events that has been running since 2014.

During the afternoon of the concert day there will be an open rehearsal in the Cathedral that members of the public will be able to attend free of charge.  The open rehearsal will be widely advertised, thus ensuring that, in addition to the 500 strong evening audience, the event will be accessible to as many people as possible.

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The first half of the concert will end with another Laura Rossi composition, ‘Remember Them’, which she wrote to accompany a collection of contemporary WW1 poetry written by primary school children in Manchester.  In ‘Remember Them’, the WSO will accompany a choir of 70 children drawn from the nine primary schools in Worcestershire that comprise the Rivers C of E Multi-Academy Trust.

In order to maximise the opportunity for children in the Rivers MAT schools to learn about WW1 in different ways, the project also involves the Orchestra running a series of WW1-themed music and poetry workshops one month before the Cathedral event, jointly led by Laura Rossi and Keith Slade (WSO Musical Director of the WSO). 

Laura and Keith will be supported in the school workshops by two experienced educators from the Birmingham Pals WW1 Re-enactment Group, attending in period costume in order to bring the historical element of the workshops to life for the participating children. Use of a small number of ‘There But Not There’ silhouettes during the workshops will complement the Re-enactment Group's input and remind the children that not everyone returned home following WW1.

These workshops will provide approximately 300 primary school children with memorable experiences, and will also give them with the opportunity to learn how sacrifices made 100 years ago during the First World War helped to win their freedom.

None of the children performing in the 70 strong primary school choir have ever been involved in an event of such significance or scale as the Voices of Remembrance commemoration concert.  Indeed, it is highly unlikely that any will previously have sung in public, other than perhaps in end of term school concerts.  

Given this reality, one of the main reasons that the full Cathedral Choir - which includes both girl and boy choristers - is taking part in this special event is in anticipation that close quarters experience of its sight and sounds will inspire the children in the primary school choir to want to continue singing, performing and being involved in music in the future.  They will be of a similar age or just slightly younger than the girls and boys of the Cathedral Choir, who we hope they will see as role models. 

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The windows in Worcester Cathedral cloisters include 20 that are inscribed with the names of 17 members of the Cathedral community who made the ultimate sacrifice during WW1, in addition to three organisations very closely associated with the life of the Cathedral that suffered multiple losses - the Cathedral Choir, the Cathedral Bell Ringers and The King’s School, Worcester.

We plan to position 20 ‘There But Not There’ silhouette figures throughout the Cathedral seating on Saturday 10th November, both for the afternoon open rehearsal and the evening concert, in honour of those 17 individuals and three organisations.  Intermingled with our audience and performers, these figures (including one seated amongst the choristers of the Cathedral Choir) will provide a very poignant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by young men from Worcestershire 100 years ago.  One silhouette will represent each of the soldiers and organisations named on the windows in the Cathedral cloisters, with special ‘There But Not There’ name blocks being used in order to give every figure an identity. 

Following the conclusion of the project the WSO intend to donate the ‘There But Not There’ silhouettes and name blocks to Worcester Cathedral for use in future years during the annual Remembrance period and on other special occasions.


Paul West, Alison Thomas and Keith Slade

Worcestershire Symphony Orchestra                                                        1st August 2018

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