“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.”
So British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey is said to have observed, on the eve of Britains entry into the Great War of 1914 to 1918. This year sees the centenary of the commencement of that conflict. On the night of 4th August 2014, a candlelit vigil service was held in Bath Abbey, inspired by Grey’s famous remark. With candles extinguished one by one during the service, until the last was put out at 11pm – the exact moment of Britain’s ultimatum to Germany – it was a moving commemoration. As the choir filed out of the abbey in darkness, singing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, it was no great stretch of the imagination to picture the procession of brave boys who set out to serve their country and never came home again.
Throughout the rest of the year, venues all over Bath will continue to pay tribute to those who served, with a variety of concerts and events of remembrance. Here are some highlights:
WW1 Remembered is a free exhibition at the Bath Central Library. Described as “a collection of memories and artifacts from Bath and North East Somerset, that brings to light some of the unique histories of the residents who served in uniform and on the home front”, this is a unique opportunity to view a global event through its effect on a single community, and explore the ways in which it shaped the city and its people. The collection includes a digital portrait of ‘the last fighting Tommy’ – Bath resident Harry Patch, the longest surviving British veteran of the trenches of the First World War, who passed away in 2009 aged 111. The exhibition is open daily from 9.30am (1pm on Sundays) and admission is free to all.
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is hosting a symposium and exhibition on the 17th – 19th October, entitled The Great War: Responses and Reactions – The Cultural, Artistic and Social Legacy. This promises to be a fascinating and in-depth discussion of the impact of the Great War on all aspects of British life – a great opportunity for discussion whether your interest in the subject is general or academic.
As mentioned in our previous post, Thursday 30th October sees the World Premiere of The Cool Web: a Robert Graves Oratorio, at Bath Abbey. Graves’ poetry, and his wartime memoir Goodbye to All That, have remained in print since their original publication – such is the impact and relevance of his writing. Graves enlisted early in the war, serving with the Royal Welch Fusiliers and taking a grievous wound at the Battle of the Somme. He was also instrumental in the meeting of renowned fellow war poets Siegfried Sassoon (Graves’ friend and fellow officer) and Wilfred Owen. Tickets for the concert cost between £10 and £30 and can be obtained from the Bath Box Office.
My last pick ties together the First World War centenary and a familiar cultural highlight of the season, the Bath Mozart Fest. Amelia Freedman, Mozart Fest artistic director, explains: “An innovative strand in this year’s programming marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War with poetry from the period, read by the esteemed actor Samuel West, and an Armistice Day recital of songs on the general subject of war.”
Both events are part of the festival’s Lunchtime Series. Taking place at 1pm on Sunday 9th November at the Assembly Rooms, In Pale Battalions is a poetry reading by Samual West, featuring the works of poets who served in and were otherwise affected by the ‘war to end all wars’. And at 1pm on Armistice Day itself, 11th November, the Myrthen Ensemble – a vocal quartet with piano accompaniment – perform a program of Anthems for a Doomed Youth. Songs by diverse composers from across Europe and Russia, ranging from Schuber to Mussorgsky to Britten, explore the theme of war and its victims.Tickets for both concerts are £10.00-£18.00 from the Bath Box Office.
The 24th annual Bath Mozart Fest will run from the 7th – 15th November this year, with a packed calendar of musical performances by leading soloists and ensembles. Though Mozart is of course the main attraction, his work is not the only music on offer. The festival aims to provide a greater depth of appreciation for Mozart’s music by placing it in context.
Beginning with performances incorporating Mozart’s friend and contemporary Haydn, and Haydn’s famous pupil, Beethoven, through the course of the festival many of Mozart’s beloved works will be presented alongside those of other heavy hitters of the Viennese Classical, Romantic and 20th Century periods. Mozart Fest 2014 promises to be a sumptuous musical tapestry patterned with the music of Schubert and Schumann, Dvořák and Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, Debussy and Shostakovich; and of course, the man himself. I can’t wait! Book yourself a room at Three Abbey Green and I’ll see you there!