A new choral commission by Howard Goodall will be at the heart of one of the UK’s main World War I centenary commemoration events on 4 August 2014. The twilight event is to be narrated by Dan Snow and will take place at the tiny woodland St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, Belgium, which will play host to 500 invited guests, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and David Cameron. They will be joined by a choir of both English and German singers from the London Symphony Chorus and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Chor, and musicians from The Coldstream Guards, all conducted by Simon Halsey.
Goodall’s 5-minute piece Sure of the Sky, Sure of the Sun - Des Himmels sicher, der Sonne sicher is scored for SATB choir and 5 brass players. It sets both English and German texts, the English is “May, 1915” by Charlotte Mew (1869-1928), and the German is “To a Missing Friend” by Goldfeld, a German Jewish soldier killed in action, the poem was discovered by Jewish military historian, Peter Appelbaum.
The event will also include a unique collaboration between the London Symphony Orchestra ,the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle, and a performance by a children’s choir conducted by Gareth Malone.
St Symphorien is one of three main events taking place in London, Glasgow and Belgium that day, to commemorate the centenary of Britain’s declaration of the First World War, and all the events will be broadcast live on BBC2 TV. St Symphorien is the resting place for the first and last British, and the last Commonwealth, soldiers to die on the Western Front. In total, 284 German and 230 Commonwealth casualties are buried there.
Sir Nicholas Kenyon wrote a fascinating article about the St Symphorien project in The Telegraph. Read it here.
The score of Sure of the Sky, Sure of the Sun – Des Himmels sicher, der Sonne sicher is available to purchase here.