Sunday, November 12, 2017


Writtle Singers at All Saints’ Church

Unaccompanied songs of anticipation, grief and regret in this beautifully crafted sequence of music and readings.
The Singers began with Sterndale Bennett’s 1846 setting of Marlowe’s Come Live With Me, and ended with the equally upbeat Swansea Town, by Gustav Holst.
The Thaxted composer was also represented by a polished performance of his Five Part Songs – the first, Dream Tryst, could easily have been mistaken for Sullivan [not represented this time …].
Finzi’s spare settings of Elegies by Scots poet William Drummond were followed by Maxwell Davies’s beautiful Lullabye for Lucy. Tavener’s poignant Song for Athene was superbly sung; a selection of Parry’s Songs of Farewell included Campion’s Never Weather-beaten Sail and Vaughan’s My Soul, There is a Country.
The only non-British, non-English work was Whitacre’s hauntingly beautiful Lux Aurumque.
The readings, by Martyn Richards, included Great War poems written by women – Aelfrida Tillyard’s rationing rhyme of 1916 a parody of the Marlowe – as well as Carol Ann Duffy’s Last Post, written to mark the death in 2009 of the last of the Tommies who fought in that war.
The Writtle Singers were conducted, and the pieces were introduced by Christine Gwynn, who can now look back on twenty years at the helm. The future looks bright, too, with no fewer than six new voices in the ranks this time out. This is, alas, my last review of this excellent village choir. I can look back even further to less certain times, and I look forward to hearing many more of these carefully curated concerts in All Saints’.
Their next is the always popular Carols by Candlelight on Wednesday December 13.

Last Post

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If poetry could tell it backwards, true, begin
that moment shrapnel scythed you to the stinking mud…
but you get up, amazed, watch bled bad blood
run upwards from the slime into its wounds;
see lines and lines of British boys rewind
back to their trenches, kiss the photographs from home-
mothers, sweethearts, sisters, younger brothers
not entering the story now
to die and die and die.
Dulce- No- Decorum- No- Pro patria mori.
You walk away.
You walk away; drop your gun (fixed bayonet)
like all your mates do too-
Harry, Tommy, Wilfred, Edward, Bert-
and light a cigarette.
There's coffee in the square,
warm French bread
and all those thousands dead
are shaking dried mud from their hair
and queuing up for home. Freshly alive,
a lad plays Tipperary to the crowd, released
from History; the glistening, healthy horses fit for heroes, kings.
You lean against a wall,
your several million lives still possible
and crammed with love, work, children, talent, English beer, good food.
You see the poet tuck away his pocket-book and smile.
If poetry could truly tell it backwards,
then it would.

No comments:

Post a Comment