HCO Mixes Words and Music

At 7:30 pm on Saturday 24 November for our first piece we are mixing words and music to remember the Armistice.

We will be performing George Butterworth’s Rhapsody ‘A Shropshire Lad’, based on A.E. Houseman’s moving poems. We are delighted that the Performance poet Alexandra Wilde will read a selection of Housemen’s poems, including ‘Loveliest of Trees’ and ‘With Rue My Heart is Laden’.

The two songs cited provide the thematic material to the Rhapsody we are playing. We are not the first to combine the poems with the Rhapsody, the Proms in 2018 did this with the Halle Orchestra and Mark Elder – we can’t find a video of this on-line. Butterworth also set six of the songs to music in his song cycle. ‘A Shropshire Lad’. You can watch the Proms 2014 where Roderic Williams and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Manzek perform the Song Cycle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NJhFYMf0UE

Five other of the Shropshire Lad songs, including ‘With Rue…’, were published as ‘Bredon Hill and Other Songs’. Other works you may like are ‘The Banks of Green Willow’, you may remember we performed this last year.

Please let us know your favourite Butterworth pieces and performances.

If you would like you can buy the poems ‘A Shropshire Lad’ – there is a ‘Dover Thrift Edition’ for less than £2!

Now a bit about George Butterworth himself. He was born in London in 1885 but his family soon moved to York. He won a scholarship to Eaton and then went up to Trinity College Oxford. There he made friends with Cecil Sharp and Ralph Vaughan Williams. If you like Butterworth’s The Shropshire Lad check out Vaughn Williams’ songs, ‘On Wenlock Edge’ also based on these poems.

These songs and poems pre-date the First World War, but their message, their mood, their ambiance has made these part of the zeitgeist of the First World War as much as Wilfred Owen and the other war poets.

Butterworth died in 1916, shot by a sniper in the Battle of the Somme, he thus himself became one of “the lads that will never be old” (a phrase from ‘The lads in their hundreds’ – another Houseman poem form ‘A Shropshire Lad’).

Further information can be found in ‘George Butterworth – Memorial Volume’ edited by Wayne Smith. This contains citations, and appreciations as well as diary entries he made in the trenches. Also ‘Whom The Gods Love’ by Michael Barlow is about his life and music.

We hope you will come and join us at 7.30 pm Saturday 24 November to remember those that will never be old.


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