‘The Poetry is in the Pity…’

Sheffield Oratorio Chorus has ‘a big sing’ looming at Sheffield Cathedral – Britten’s great plea for reconciliation, his War Requiem!

The performance has clearly been scheduled for the 2nd of July as the day before, the 1st of July, saw the beginning of what we now know as the Battle of the Somme exactly 100 year ago in 1916.

It went on until the 18th of November and resulted in over one million men dead or wounded. On the first day itself, there were around 58,000 British casualties, including 513 officers and men from the Sheffield Pals Battalion!

Few will need reminding that for the War Requiem, Britten set poems by penned by Wilfred Owen (killed in 1918, aged 25, days before the armistice) in the trenches of the ‘war to end all wars’ – until, that is, 1939 when its seismic shocks ignited another!

They are at the extremely moving heart of work, otherwise a setting of the Latin Mass of the Dead (Missa pro Defunctis) and written for the 1962 consecration of the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral, destroyed in the Nazi’s blitz of the city in 1940.

For its performance of the War Requiem, the Oratorio Chorus (with guests apparently) is using the occasion as its once-a-season concert with a fully-fledged professional orchestra, the Northern Chamber Orchestra, no doubt augmented as it usually is for Buxton Festival operas.

On paper, the three soloists look fine: soprano Laura Mitchell, tenor Mark Wilde, and particularly baritone Ross Ramgobin; the children’s voices are Sheffield Cathedral choristers; Fraser Wilson plays the organ; and Jonathan Gooing the piano.

With Alan Eost (music director of the Oratorio Chorus), Neil Taylor and Joshua Hales the conductors, everything looks set for another memorable performance of the work from the Oratorio Chorus.


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