ELGAR AND THE GREAT WAR
in Brentwood Cathedral
This magnificent collaboration made a mightily impressive opening to the 2014 Brentwood Arts Festival.
Elgar's Spirit of England, written in the darkest days of the war, sets words by Laurence Binyon for massed choirs – here the Brentwood Choral Society, the Cathedral Singers, the Hutton and Shenfield Choral Society and the Ingatestone Choral Society – and soprano. Emily Onsloe's pure, powerful voice was heard to stunning effect, especially in the second movement, “To Women”, and echoing the familiar words of “For The Fallen” - We Will Remember Them. Wonderful to hear this unique wartime cantata live, in all its patriotic glory – dedicated by the composer “to the memory of our glorious men, with a special thought for the Worcesters”.
The concert, with support from the Elgar Society, included some lesser known works from the period: Carillon, a rallying cry from 1914, accompanies a poem by Emile Cammaerts, its mood ranging from dying leaves and sacrifice to martial vengeance. And Le Drapeau Belge in similar vein from three years later. The texts magnificently delivered by actor Malcolm Kimmance. We heard the familiar Sospiri, and Polonia, a sort of Pomp and Circumstance for Poland. The superb orchestra was the ELMS Symphony, conducted by Andrew Wright.
Brentwood student Julia Cockcroft joined them as soloist for Elgar's moving Cello Concerto, written in the aftermath of war, and deeply nostalgic. She played it with an eloquent legato, the phrasing in the Adagio third movement particularly poignant, while the orchestra, under David Pickthall, captured the elegiac majesty of Elgar's last great work.