The Bach Choir Gives World Premiere Of Blitz Requiem
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
26 September 2013, St Paul’s Cathedral, London
The Bach Choir joins forces with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor David Hill to perform a brand new work by composer and organist David Goode and poet and dramatist Francis Warner
One of the most devastating reminders of the plight of ordinary citizens during the Second World War, the Blitz signifies an unforgettable moment in history, not least for those affected by the incessant bombing of London during 1940-1. In this remarkable one-off event, The Bach Choir and conductor David Hill present the world premiere of David Goode’s largest-scale work to date, Blitz Requiem. Setting to music the intensely-moving eponymous poem by World War II poet Francis Warner, it tells his personal stories of this momentous period, in the most famous building to survive the Blitz, St Paul’s Cathedral.
The month of September 1940 marked the heaviest loss of life and damage in London during the Blitz: beginning on 7 September 1940, the Luftwaffe bombed London for 57 consecutive nights, destroying or damaging more than one million houses and killing over 20,000 civilians.
Second World War poet Francis Warner experienced the Blitz first-hand as a child and his poignant account of his family’s experiences provided the inspiration for renowned organist and composer David Goode. Based on the structure of the Latin Requiem Mass, Goode’s direct and engaging music captures the vivid imagery of Warner’s poetry; haunting images of dead children laid out on their playground, Warner’s mother giving birth under the dining room table in the midst of one of the heaviest bombing raids of the war (27 September 1940); air-raid sirens and the all-clear are all portrayed in this imaginative and compelling setting.
The Blitz Requiem is the culmination of 10 years of collaboration between poet and composer, whose first choice of choir to stage the world premiere of this momentous work was The Bach Choir – one of the world’s leading choruses and the UK’s only independent large choir. Drawing together the astonishing forces of the 200-strong members and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the occasion, Blitz Requiem is the latest milestone in a rich history of notable events for this prestigious choir. One particularly noteworthy parallel is The Bach Choir’s role in the early life of Britten’s War Requiem – combining the Latin Requiem Mass with war poems by Wilfred Owen. The choir was invited to sing on the first (and seminal) recording in 1963; the disc sold 250,000 copies in the first five months of its release and is still going strong today.
David Goode explains: “The Blitz Requiem was written for a choral society in mind and who better than The Bach Choir to portray an extraordinary world event as seen through the circumstances of the daily lives of ordinary people: they are a national choir, marking one of the most important events in the history of our national life. I’m so excited at the prospect of my largest-scale work to date (50 minutes) being performed by this magnificent choir and orchestra in the inspiring and historic surroundings of St Paul’s. The building lends itself brilliantly to musical and spatial ideas – and its unforgettable role in the Blitz gives this special occasion even further significance.”
Francis Warner comments: “It is a great honour that my personal experiences of the Blitz will be lifted into the music of David Goode’s unique gifts, through the expertise of The Bach Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in this world-wide symbol of faithful endurance – St Paul’s Cathedral – which the full onslaught of the Nazi bombers could not destroy.”
Founded in 1876 (to give the first complete British performance of Bach's Mass in B minor), The Bach Choir counts amongst its eminent musical directors Stanford, Vaughan Williams, David Willcocks and current conductor David Hill (BBC Singers, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra), under whom the Choir regularly commissions and performs new work. Its members are drawn from all walks of life, and its extraordinary schedule includes up to twenty performances a season in some of the world’s most prestigious venues, overseas tours, Hollywood film soundtracks, and outstanding recordings (their 2011 release The Colours of Christmas reached No. 3 in the Classical Charts).
The Bach Choir is widely-renowned for its commitment to commissioning and premiering new work: its performance in August 2012 of Bob Chilcott's The Angry Planet at the BBC Proms was the Choir's sixth world premiere since 2001.