The choir will be singing two pieces at the regular Last Post evening ceremony at the Menin Gate, Ypres, on Friday May 27: the modern hymn “Mansions of the Lord” and the World War I song “Keep the Home Fires Burning”.
The Menin Gate, pictured above right, was constructed in 1927 as one of a series of memorials to commemorate the fallen and missing in the successive battles of Ypres that cost around 1 million casualties on both sides. The Last Post ceremony was inaugurated in 1928 and has taken place every evening since, apart from during World War II.
The Croydon choir will sing again at Ypres on Saturday May 28, this time at St George’s Church, also built in honour of the dead of World War I. Its programme will include a setting of “Futility”, Wilfred Owen’s powerful homage to a fallen soldier, composed by Richard Hoyle, the music director of the Croydon Male Voice Choir.
Around 55 choir members will take part and they will be joined by a further 50 relatives, friends and supporters.
Two choir members had relatives who fought at Ypres. Richard Hoyle’s grandfather Private John Hoyle was a machine-gunner at the Third Battle of Ypres, which was fought between July and November 1917 and incurred an estimate 600,000 casualties.
Private Charles Gillman of the Civil Service Rifles fought in the Fifth Battle of Ypres, one of the final engagements of the war, in September-October 1918. He was the father of Croydon choir bass singer, Peter Gillman.
“I was never able to ask my father about his experiences during the war as he died when I was very young,” Peter Gillman said.
“I feel proud to be taking part in this ceremony that will honour the colleagues of my father who did not survive the battles he fought in.”
The Ypres visit will form part of a busy three days for the choir.
On Thursday May 26, the choir will be performing at the Fairfield Halls at the inauguration ceremony of the incoming mayor, Councillor Wayne Trakas-Lawlor.
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