The Croydon Male Voice Choir is staging a tribute to the fallen of World War I in what promises to be a memorable concert at St Francis, West Wickham, this Saturday – the day before the 100th anniversary of the Armistice in 1918.
The choir will sing a range of numbers that include WWI songs and poems, and hymns and pleas for peace.
The opening section will demonstrate the gung-ho attitude at the start of the war, with songs such as Pack Up Your Troubles and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, and the concluding sections will include a setting of Wilfred Owen’s Futility, lamenting the waste of war.
The names will be read aloud of all 72 men who died during the war who came from West Wickham – a village then of just 1,300 people.
The Croydon choir is presenting the concert in partnership with The Matchbox Theatre, an amateur dramatic society based at St Francis.
Matchbox actors will be reading poems and staging the dramatic meeting between Owen and fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon at Craiglockhart Hospital, Edinburgh, in June 1917, when Sassoon advised Owen on how to make his poetry more intense.
An actor will also read a poem and a text by VADs – the women who served as volunteer nurses at hospitals in France and Britain.
One member of the Croydon choir is likely to find the occasion especially moving.
Bass Peter Gillman recalls that his father, Charles, an infantryman who fought at both the Somme and Ypres, told him that he and his fellow soldiers used to sing the Soldiers Chorus from Gounod’s Faust. At Peter’s suggestion, the choir will be singing the Soldiers Chorus in the opening section of the concert.
The CMVC concert is part of a Festival of Peace, commemorating 100 years since the end of World War I, taking place at St Francis throughout the weekend – starting with an opening ceremony at 10.30am on Friday, ending with a film, War Horse, at 6.30pm on Sunday.
The concert will feature two key new choir personnel.
Roger Pinsent, who became music director in September, will be conducting his first full concert with the choir. Nathaniel Brawn, the choir’s new accompanist, will also be playing his first full concert. Both took part when the choir sang a lunchtime performance at Rochester Cathedral last month.
St Francis is in Ravenswood Road, West Wickham, BR4 0PW.
Tickets for the concert cost just £10 and will be on sale at the church on the night. They can also be bought from firstname.lastname@example.org
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