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Brentwood Arts Festival Opening Concert
5th July 2014 Archive

Elgar and The Great War

The Brentwood Choirs Festival hosted the opening concert of the week long Brentwood Arts Festival in Brentwood Cathedral on Saturday 5th July 2014. The concert was a great success, and the audience was extremely enthusiastic. To remind you of this concert, or tell you about it for the first time, we provide an image of the poster we published, short notes on the pieces performed, and profiles of the conductors and solo performers. You can use the following links to find this information.

Notes on the Works Profile of Elgar Conductors Profiles of Soloists Chair's Address Sponsors

Poster Publicising Event

BCF poster July 2014


Chair’s Welcome to Concert

Logo of the Brentwood Arts Festival

It is now over two years since the idea of organising an Arts Festival was first mentioned during an Arts Council committee meeting and the first, tentative steps taken to make it a reality. Advice was initially sought from within the Arts Council, from our President, Lord Petre, and Vice-President, and from our very supportive colleagues at the Town Hall. Following further discussions a letter was sent to all our members asking for their approval and commitment to the project. By the time of the 2013 AGM much progress had been made and a paper was distributed at that meeting outlining various ideas and suggestions for considerationby the participating groups. This paper reflected the decision that the over-arching theme of the Festival should be the centenary of WW1. So much has happened since then: venues have been sourced and booked, budgets prepared and agreed, funds sought and – some – obtained, consideration given to transport for the elderly and infirm, meetings and more meetings to consider publicity, printing content and publication of the events programme - the list is endless.
There are many, many people who have given freely and enthusiastically of their time towards the success of this Festival....those who have facilitated theobtaining of funds, the members and co-opted members of the extended Arts Council committee, the participants and last but by no means least you – the audience.
There are events to suit all tastes going on around the whole borough during the coming week. Please have a look at the programme and support as many of them as possible. This is a Festival for Brentwood by Brentwood people and shows we have much to be proud of in the arts in this area.

Glenda Abbott
Chair, Brentwood Arts Council

Brief Notes on the Programme Items.

Please click this link for a Profile of Sir Edward Elgar

Carillon and Le Drapeau Belge

Elgar was deeply affected by the plight of Belgium and its people, and these two works, incorporating the poetry of Emile Cammaerts, are his dramatic and engaging response. With their spoken narration they come out of the tradition of Victorian melodrama. The first performance of Carillon was given in December 1914, with Elgar conducting, and Cammaerts’ wife, Tita Brand, as the narrator. It is written for a large orchestra and is a bold, robust accompaniment to the words, which quickly caught the public imagination, although it also contains more sensitive, reflective passages of the type that became a feature of Elgar’s best music written during the Great War.
Le Drapeau Belge is a shorter work, written nearly three years later, and is a return to the Carillon theme. It failed to capture the public mood in the same way as Carillon: This time the war -weary public failed to respond to the martial style and unashamed rallying cry.

* In the Arts Festival concert, both of these rarely heard works were performed from copies of the original manuscripts, many in Elgar’s own hand.

Sospiri and Polonia

Sospiri was composed in the months before the war and first performed in the Queen’s Hall at the Proms on 15 August 1914. It had originally been conceived as a work for violin and piano with a French title, but, as the war approached, Elgar re-wrote it for strings, organ and harp and gave it an Italian title - Sospiri - meaning ‘sighs’. The Italians were, of course, our allies in the First World War. The same concert featured Land of Hope and Glory – which grew immensely in popularity as the war progressed – but Sospiri is a tender, gentle piece that could hardly offer a greater contrast.
Polonia was written to raise money for the Polish Victims Relief Committee, and it quotes heavily from Polish folk and national music, although it is far more than a mere medley of tunes. Elgar takes the various themes and weaves them into his own music, allowing them to slowly emerge in turn: They include the broad Chorale melody Z dymen pożarów (‘with the smoke of fire’), and the Dąbrowski Mazurka – the Polish National Hymn – ‘Poland is not lost’.

Cello Concerto in E Minor, opus 85 (composed in 1919)

At the end of the war, a deeply disillusioned Elgar stubbornly refused to write any ‘victory’ or ‘peace’ music. Instead, he returned to the world of abstract music, initially composing his two great chamber works, the Violin Sonata and String Quartet, and then his last great work, the Cello Concerto.
One of his biographers, Michael Kennedy, talking of the main 9/8 theme, sums up the work and the creative world Elgar was in at the end of the war:
“This is overpoweringly the music of wood smoke and autumn bonfires, of the evening of life; sadness and disillusion are dominant”.
Throughout the work there is sense of looking back, cleverly nurtured by the structure of the concerto which almost obsessively keeps returning to previous themes. This, coupled with the unusual sparseness of the orchestral textures and uncertain, chromatic harmonies, imposes that sense of a creative life and an era drawing to their close.

Spirit of England, opus 80 (composed in 1916 & 1917)

The Spirit of England was Elgar’s one really large scale work of the war, and it encompasses the full range of his emotional responses to the conflict. It is a setting of three poems from Laurence Binyon’s The Winnowing Fan which contain all the then familiar themes of noble sacrifice, courage in adversity and the justness of the cause and Elgar treats each of these in a very distinctive way.
The opening of the first movement of The Fourth of August is a bold, optimistic statement, but this quickly dissolves as the realities of war force their way through, not least in the vision of hell conjured up from Gerontius. To Women and For the Fallen are more solemn movements as the poems reflect on the suffering at home and then at the front itself For the Fallen, in particular, captures so much of the essence of Elgar’s mood in the middle of the Great War as its endlessly shifting keys suddenly resolve into bursts of certainty, only for that to ebb away once more. His delicate treatment of the now famous words “They shall not grow..” is in stark contrast to the way they are usually declaimed at from thousands of war memorials on Remembrance Sunday and says much about how deeply sensitive Elgar was as man and a composer.

*These notes are based on copyrighted text, written by David Worsfold, which was given in the paper programme issued at the concert.

David Pickthall, Conductor

 picture of David Pickthall

David Pickthall was an Academic Foundation Scholar of Brentwood School from 1970-77, and then won an Organ Scholarship to Selwyn College, Cambridge, from where he graduated in 1981. While at Cambridge he was taught composition by the late Sir Philip Ledger and Hugh Wood, and the organ by Dame Gillian Weir. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists.
David spent the year 1981-1982 gaining his teaching qualification at London University. A teaching post back at Brentwood School followed, and in 1987 he became Director of Music. Twenty seven years later he is in his final year of leading a department of three full-time staff and twenty peripatetic music specialists. He was presented with a Civic Award for Services to the Arts in Brentwood in 1997, in recognition of his founding/conducting of the Brentwood Philharmonic Orchestra (an orchestra to which he returned in February 2014 for a concert of film and television music), and a series of popular jazz programmes for the local community radio station Phoenix FM.
Outside Brentwood School’s walls, he may be found in the recording studio, often in Europe, where he conducts film scores – recent work has been with the City of Prague Philharmonic (two projects for ITV, The King’s Beard and Eddy and the Bear) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (The Wyvern Mystery for BBC1), while his original scores and arrangements have been recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Central Band of the RAF and the King’s Singers, among many others. He is proud that he is the musical voice of the villainous penguin in the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit The Wrong Trousers. Other work for the BBC includes conducting the film of the popular children’s series The Story of Tracey Beaker and supervising the music for Julian Fellowes’ Most Mysterious Murders in 2005. He has recently been working for Channel Four as musical arranger for The Paul O’Grady Show, and conducted the London Symphony Orchestra for the Australian group INXS’ orchestral sessions.
David is the composer of two operas and three musicals, one of which – Ain’t Life Good!– written originally for Harrow School and starring a young Benedict Cumberbatch, was awarded the Barclays Best New Musical Prize after a South Bank performance in1994. He is published worldwide by Samuel French Ltd. Retirement plans include more composing, arranging, conducting and travelling.

Andrew Wright, Conductor

 picture of Andrew Wright

Andrew Wright has worked in church music for over thirty years where his work has included teaching. Andrew Wright enjoys an extensive career as a church musician, conductor, teacher, organist and composer. After graduating from Oxford University, he was appointed Assistant Master of Music at Westminster in 1979 under Stephen Cleobury, and in 1982 became Cathedral Director of Music in Brentwood and Director of Liturgical Music for the Diocese. At Oxford he was a member of The Tallis Scholars and the Oxford University Chamber Orchestra and continued advanced piano studies at the Royal College of Music under John Barstow.
He has worked widely through broadcasts, recordings, many major events, and orchestral performances of works extending from the Monteverdi Vespers to Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, working with soloists including Judith Howarth, Roderick Earle, John Lill and Emma Johnson.
In recent years Andrew has conducted a wide variety of music at the Cathedral, including Britten’s Noye’s Fludde which involved local school children and music groups, a Sing-a-long Messiah, and Brahms’ German Requiem. He has been English National President of the Pueri Cantores Federation and a member of the Bishops’ Conference Church Music Committee. He has composed much for the liturgy and for choirs and organ with works published in the UK and USA. In 2009 a CD was published which included his song cycle Bliss of Solitude, with tenor soloist Richard Dowling. His Requiem of Peace has been widely performed locally, nationally and in the USA, including in Los Angeles Cathedral.


Julia Cockcroft (cello)

Julia began learning the ‘cello at six years old with local teacher Sally Goodfellow. In 2007, she was awarded a music scholarship to study at Brentwood School, where she has just completed her A-level studies in French, Latin and Classica Greek. Julia is currently the principal cellist of the Essex Youth Orchestra and enjoys playing as a member of the Essex Youth String Quartet. At the age of 16, she achieved a distinction at ABRSM Grade 8 and currently studies ‘cello with Margaret Powell, who was herself a pupil of Jacqueline Du Pré. Julia is also a passionate linguist and, from October 2014, plans to read French at Pembroke College, Oxford, where she is keen to participate in the musical life of the university.

Emily Onsloe, Soprano

 picture of Emily Onsloe

Emily Onsloe (soprano) is a British soprano who is currently studying with Professor Susan McCulloch in her third year at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Her passion for music began at an early age, learning the clarinet and saxophone, which eventually brought her to realising her talent for singing.
Emily won the 2012 Freda Parry Scholarship Fund and was a finalist at the Essex Young Musician of the Year awards. Previous titles include Havering’s Young Musician of the Year and The Rotary Music competition winner. In addition to this she won the Vera Richards Residential Course prize, The Ian Cox and Brian Donnelly Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Ruth Richards shield for Music. In 2011 Emily was generously supported by the Thomas Acton memorial Fund.
In 2013 Emily sung in Mahler’s Symphony No2 in C minor Resurrection at the Barbican with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jiri Belohlávek. She sang with the Chelmsford & District Male Voice choir as a guest soloist at the Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford and gave a recital for the Salvation Army and organised a charity opera gala to raise money for The Olive Tree. Emily was the soloist for Mozart’s Coronation Mass at St Joseph’s, Leyton and William Russell’s oratorio Job at The United Reformed Church, Maldon. Personal highlights include performing as a guest soloist at The Savoy Theatre, playing the role of Woman 1 in Jason Robert Brown's Songs for a New World and most recently making her debut as the Countess in Mozart’s, The Marriage of Figaro directed by Sally Burgess. As a young singer Emily was part of Glyndebourne Youth Opera, and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, this led her to go on to sing professionally with the Brentwood Cathedral Choir. Emily has had the opportunity to work with internationally renowned artists such as: Sarah Walker, Robin Bowman, Mary King, Audrey Hyland, Saffron van Zwaenberg, Amanda Roocroft, Mary Hammond and Emanuele Moris .

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Malcolm Kimmance (Narrator)

 picture of Malcome Kimmance

Malcolm has been part of the theatre scene in the Colchester area for many years.
His theatre credits include:
The Winslow Boy, Shadowlands, The Herbal Bed and Blithe Spirit (Colchester Theatre Group),
Much Ado About Nothing, The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of The Shrew (Mad Dogs and Englishmen Theatre Company)
Of Mice and Men (Darc Productions)
Much Ado About Nothing (New Route Theatre Company)
Hay Fever and A Pin To See The Peep Show (Headgate Theatre Productions)
Wind in The Willows, The Three Musketeers and Alice in Wonderland (Chameleon’s Web Theatre Company).

He has directed performances of Kafka’s Dick, Amy’s View, Black Comedy, A Separate Peace, The Lady In The Van and Educating Rita in The Headgate Theatre. He played the role of Samuel Pepys in an evening of words and music at Ingatestone Hall and Hylands House, and performed the narration for The Manchester Carols in Chelmsford Cathedral.
Malcolm was delighted to be working again in Brentwood Cathedral in this concert, as he was part of Brentwood Cathedral Music for several years until he moved away from the area in 1994.


ELMS Orchestra

Sourced primarily from the London Music Colleges, the ELMS Orchestra brings together musicians who are either currently studying or have recently graduated and are now playing professionally in the U.K and abroad. Many of the players work regularly with orchestras such as The Hallé, The London Philharmonic, The Royal Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, English National Opera and The BBC Philharmonic.

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