Remembering the end of World War One looks as if it is going to loom large in the national consciousness this month. Nationally and locally, events are planned that will bring the armistice of November 1918 to the forefront of people’s minds. Among the different ways in which to respect the memory of all those who served on the front line or on the home front, local music group the Petersfield Orchestra plans a concert that promises a powerful musical tribute. Just four days after Remembrance Sunday, conductor Mark Biggins will lead a programme that features pieces by four English composers, each of whom was engaged in the conflict in one way or another. Centrepiece is the Third Symphony by Ralph Vaughan Williams who was a stretcher-bearer in the trenches. Subtitled ‘Pastoral’ it is haunted by distant fanfares and bugle calls while a wordless voice echoes the cries of the dead and wounded. The grieving fields are not those of England but the poppy-strewn landscape of Flanders.
In his Cello Concerto of 1919 Edward Elgar created one of the great elegies for the fallen, one that positively aches with melancholy and loss. Soloist with Petersfield Orchestra will be rising cello star Joy Lisney: the surname may be familiar as her family are closely associated with Hindhead Music Centre. A composer herself, and a conductor as well as cellist, Joy promises to bring to the piece all the required eloquence of feeling.
Two shorter works, again English, are also to be heard: George Butterworth was a close friend of Vaughan Williams, though rather younger. He was killed on the Somme in 1916. His short work ‘Banks of Green Willow’ takes a familiar folk tune and transforms it into a timeless idyll. This year is the centenary of Gustav Holst’s famous ‘Planets’ Suite. Holst helped with musical entertainment for troops based in Greece. His ‘Somerset Rhapsody’ also uses folk tunes and speaks vividly of an England that disappeared forever after the war was over.
This concert by Petersfield Orchestra commemorating the Armistice promises a musical feast as well as honour where it is due. It takes place in Petersfield Festival Hall on Thursday 15 November at 7.30pm, with a free introduction to the event at 6.30pm.