On 11th November 1918 a truce or armistice was agreed and the Stamford Bridge Singers marked this important anniversary with a moving and fitting concert in St Olave’s Church in York.
The concert looked back to events in the Great War, but also looked forward and featured the first performance of Armistice by the Stamford Bridge Singer’s Director of Music Stuart Nettleship. He set prophetic words from Sophie Jewett, an American Poet, who died in 1909, well before the outbreak of the War. The music beautifully matched the sentiment of the poem; periods of calm before potential strife, and the choir managed these changes of mood very convincingly.
Laurence Binyon’s words For the Fallen are very well known, and were written in 1914. They are famously used at Remembrance Day services in November and the setting by Peter Irving added a part for solo trumpet, played by Katie Morton, a member of the choir. This was a beautiful setting of moving words, and the trumpet added a poignancy to the piece, particularly when the Last Post was played over the choir’s singing of: “ … and in the morning we will remember them”
The concert opened with the setting of a poem by C.W Lewis from 1916, written following the death of his son. It was set to music by Barry Cross, a member of the choir, who visited Desplanque Farm Cemetery in France in 2016. The setting well conveys the mixture of pride and anguish at the loss of a much loved son.
This concert was given to support the Soldier’s Charity, which works to help soldiers and their families in times of need. The charity has been in existence since 1944, and there was a short presentation of the founding of the charity and the continuing work given by Lieutenant Colonel Barney Barnbrook, Regional Director, North East, ABF of the Charity.
The main work in this concert was the setting of words from the Requiem Mass by the French composer Maurice Duruflé, and was written in 1947. Maurice Duruflé was an organist in Paris and this setting makes huge demands on the organist. In this piece, as in all the others, the choir were accompanied by Keith Wright, the organist at St Olave’s church and his accompaniment was both virtuosic as well as sympathetic and really showed the range and power of the St Olave’s organ. The sublime 9 movements are based largely on plainsong themes, and especially in the Kyrie the plainsong is heard as different sections of the choir take up the melody. There is drama too, none more so than in the thrilling Dies Irae. Victoria Beale, from within the choir, was the soprano soloist in the beautifully moving Pie Jesu, and Mike Thunder, also from the choir, provided the dramatic baritone solos. The final section of the Requiem is In Paradisum and the wonderfully spiritual music provides a glimpse of what some would call heaven, others a better life.
As an encore the choir with the organist performed Gustav Holst’s setting of Clifford Bax’s poem Turn Back O Man which ends with the hope: “Earth shall be fair and all her folk be one”
This was a fitting end to a moving concert.
The collection from the concert at St Olave's raised £281.87 and Barney from the Soldiers' Charity
Lt. Col. Barney Barnbrook writes:-
I just wanted to drop you, and the Stamford Bridge Singers, a quick line of thanks for an excellent evening at St Olave’s yesterday. As I said, the Requiem was very soothing, almost therapeutic.
I also managed a bit of work in the margins; a veteran came up to me at the end of the concert to ask about getting help from the Charity so I was able to point him in the right direction. He had come up from Pontefract; I don’t know whether he and his wife just decided to drop in or had planned to attend.
Once again, many thanks; it is greatly appreciated.