Arts collaboration leads to haunting echoes

ECHOES in Song is the name of a collaboration between classical musicians, Ledbury Poetry Festival and the Three Choirs Festival.

On Friday, at a free event in Ledbury, an audience will be able to hear those haunting echoes, and the centenary echoes of World War One.

Two of the most celebrated festival on the local arts scene has been working with the Orchestra of the Swan this summer to devise a series of creative poetry and music sessions for primary schools in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

The final outcome will be linked directly to this year's theme's for the Worcester Three Choirs Festival.

Clare Stevens, marketing and media manager for the Three Choirs Festival, said: "This process was inspired by two of the key works in the festival: Britten's War Requiem and Torsten Rasch's A Foreign Field, both of which use settings of poetry from World War One.

"Poets Mandy Ross and Julie Boden visited schools in Eastnor, Malvern, Redditch and Ledbury and worked with children to write their own texts which were about, or reminiscent of, World War 1."

She added: "Themes explored in the initial sessions included responses to Lord Kitchener's call to join up at the beginning of the war; the role of women in the war; and the experiences of children whose older brothers were serving at the front. The children sang and marched in step to ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and went on to imagine the individual doubts and worries packed into ‘your old kit bag’ that might lie unspoken behind the decision to join the army."

Children from Somers Park School in Malvern, which opened in 1909, imagined the lives of former pupils who gave their lives in the war, and made a link with the school’s small war memorial, which quotes Laurence Binyon’s famous poem ‘For the Fallen’, one of the texts used in Sir Edward Elgar’s Spirit of England, - to be performed at the Three Choirs Festival.

The children also wrote about the poppy meadows being planted this year in memory of those who gave their lives in the war.

In the next sessions, composer Freya Waley-Cohen and two musicians from the Orchestra of the Swan helped the children to create musical settings for their poems. Vocal coach Robbie Jacobs then helped them learn how to perform their work.

The first presentation of work by Ledbury Primary School and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Redditch, took place on June 26.

Ledbury Poetry Festival has invited all the schools to come and share their work on Friday, July 4, at 10.30am. This will be a free event at the Community Hall in Lawnside Road.

Schools attending will include Eastnor C. E. Primary, Ledbury Primary and Somers Park Primary, Malvern.

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