It’s no surprise that there are events to commemorate the centenary of the First World War happening all over the country; we at Westminster Music Library are over half way through our year-long Behind the Lines project*, taking a closer look at the music and composers of WW1.
But what about all those fabulous, morale boosting, patriotic and often romantic popular songs of the WW1 era? How could we possibly not include them in our repertoire?
Many of these songs are catchy and great fun to sing – did we need a better reason to invite our local residents along for a jolly good sing-along?
So last Friday we treated the good people of Westminster to a sing-along of popular WW1 songs, ably supported by our house pianist.
From It’s a Long Way to Tipperary (possibly the best known song from the War, it’s actually a Music Hall song from 1912 with no military connection. Jack Judge, the author of the lyrics, apparently wrote it as a bet. The troops adopted it in the summer of 1914 and it became one of the most popular songs of WW1), the deeply satirical Oh! It’s a Lovely War (reflecting the growing frustration as the War continued without conclusion, this song went on to inspire the musical and film Oh, What a Lovely War! in the 1960s), Over there (words and music by American George M Cohan; Over there was his most famous song, he was even awarded a congressional citation for penning it) to the much loved Keep the home fires burning (the greatest patriotic song to come out of England during the First World War, although written in London, was actually the result of a collaboration in 1914 between American lyricist, Lena Guilbert Ford, and Welsh composer, Ivor Novello).
It proved to be an enjoyable day out for our participants and the first of a number of similar events we have up our sleeves.
The following day saw both singer and pianist trekking across London to Woolwich, to perform our now very well rehearsed First World War sing-along at the BBC WW1 at Home Summer Tour. Part of the Woolwich Great Get Together and Armed Forces Day, not only were we entertaining the “troops”, we had our “15 minutes of fame”, a live interview with Robert Elms to plug Westminster Music Library on BBC Radio London.
Our next Westminster Music Library WW1 Sing-along is scheduled as part of Westminster’s Silver Sunday activities in October; however we are always open for bookings…
I just wanted to extend a huge thank you for taking part in Saturday’s BBC WWI @ Home event. I appreciate all the effort, time and patience that went into keeping the show on the road – despite our various disruptions – not least the rain!
The feedback we had from people about our content was hugely positive… that positivity was completely owing to your contribution and we could not have done it without you.
We hope you enjoyed the experience too – not just being on the stage but your stint on the radio, which is heard by hundreds of thousands of Londoners.
On behalf of our stage host David Friend and Robert Elms and his team – thank you and I wish you lots of success with your library and workshops.
Kulwant Sohal, Senior Broadcast Journalist, BBC London
*Westminster Music Library has teamed up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for ‘Behind the Lines’, a large-scale programme of musical activities focusing on composers and music of the First World War. Taking place across the City of Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea for 12 months starting in October 2013, we present interactive workshops and creative music projects focusing on composers such as Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Ravel, Bliss, and Holst.
Our year of Behind the Lines activities culminates with a four day Creative Summer School in August 2014, celebrating the music and composers of World War One, with a grand finale performance by participants alongside musicians from the Orchestra at St John Smith’s Square.
To find out more or to grab yourself a place on the Summer School, visit: http://musicbehindthelines.org/workshops/summer-school/