We will remember them

This week, Westminster City Council marked Armed Forces Week. On Monday a special flag was raised on the roof of City Hall on Victoria Street, on Tuesday the Military Covenant was signed…

Armed Forces exhibition June 2013

Having recently been awarded funding to stage a series of music workshops to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, what better way for Westminster Music Library to start their project than by presenting an exhibition of some of our resources in City Hall during Armed Forces Week?

But what, you may ask, has music got to do with the armed forces, and in particular the First World War?

Most of us know that there were lots of popular songs written during this period – the First World War was a singing war, soldiers used songs to bond and to alleviate the stress and fears encountered at the front. They shared songs with each other at base camps, while marching, and on the front lines, songs such as It’s a long way to Tipperary, and Keep the home fires burning.*

Armed Forces exhibition June 2013

What many of us don’t realise is that a number of British composers played an active role during the First World War. Some of them were killed in action, and all of them were deeply affected by the horrors of war, a fact which was often reflected in the music they wrote.

Westminster Music Library wants to celebrate those “unsung heroes” and draw attention to their music. The exhibition gives a glimpse into a few of these composers [all following links are to Oxford Music Online – log in with your Westminster Library card number to gain access]:

George Butterworth who was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts in the army in the First World War and was killed by sniper fire in the Battle of the Somme, Edward Elgar, horrified at the prospect of the carnage, joined the Hampstead Volunteer Reserve of the army, Arthur Bliss who was with the 13th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, followed by service with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, wounded on the Somme in 1916 and gassed at Cambrai in 1918, Vaughan Williams served throughout as an artillery officer, Ivor Gurney –  the composer and poet – served with the Gloucestershire Regiment, he survived but spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals… there are many more.

We salute these men, just as Westminster acknowledges the crucial role played by the members of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces; they are an integral part of Britain.

*Search our Song Index to locate the music to these and many other WW1 songs held at Westminster Music Library.

Email Westminster Music Library musiclibrary@westminster.gov.uk to find out more about our music workshops, supported using public funding by Arts Council England (due to start in September 2013 and ending in a summer school in August 2014).



One response to “We will remember them

  1. Gurney’s situation wasn’t helped by the fact that he was an undiagnosed bipolar, and should never have served in the first place. Enrique Granados, though he didn’t serve in WW1, was killed in March 1916 as a direct result of a German U-boat attack on the ship he was travelling on. He leaped out of his lifeboat to try and save his wife, who also drowned. William Dennis Browne, an accomplished songwriter, served in Turkey with another composer, Australian F.S. Kelly, and was killed there. Kelly survived, but was later killed on the Somme. Kelly wrote a wonderful Elegy For Strings which he dedicated to Rupert Brooke. Take care x


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