About The Suite

Composer Phil Mountford was commissioned to write a choral work to commemorate World War One for the community choirs in Feckenham, Worcestershire.

The initial idea was to create one piece but this soon developed into a suite once the underlying story had been conceived with the composer creating a musical drama around a fictional soldier.  The narrative, written by poet and historian Kathy Gee, intertwines letters and prose from the soldier, mother and sweetheart telling the fateful story of a young infantry recruit, as his life unfolds both at home and in the trenches. Written to be premiered on Armistice Day 2016 by multiple choirs from the Feckenham district, totaling around 80 voices, the music has been purposefully composed to be performed both as individual pieces or as a complete work, narrated through the reading of letters and prose.

The Music

SuiteForTheFallenSoldierTitle_462

The Suite For The Fallen Soldier consists of eleven pieces – ten of which are original – interwoven with five letters.

[6′ 21″] Our War

[2′ 00″] Prelude To Battlefield Instrumental (Cello / Piano)

[2′ 34″] Battlefield

[2′ 42″] Silent Night (Gruber, Arr. Mountford)

[4′ 08″] The March

[6′ 12″] Come Home

[5′ 46″] Hear My Prayer (Based on the Psalm 23 text)

[5′ 40″] Liberia Me  (Based on the Requiem Mass text)

[3′ 44″] Requiem Aeternum (Based on the Requiem Mass text)

[6′ 48″] Say Not Goodbye

[5′ 27″] Remembrance

You can listen to the music here.

 

The Narrative

The musical journey commences with a celebration of life in an English country village sharing a weary but optimistic attitude to the imminent arrival of the First World War, expressed in both text and melody. After weeks of training and preparation the soldier finds himself on the front line of the battlefield – an alien, haunting landscape which he tries to describe to his mother. Gruber’s traditional carol Stille Nacht (Silent Night) follows and opens with an all male vocal line, performed in German, as was reportedly heard in some parts along the battle front.

Our War ManuscriptRepeated manoeuvres are encapsulated in the piece The March where infantry were constantly marched around for no apparent gain.  The endless monotony is captured in the repetitive two beat rhythm with the lower choir chanting ‘marciando in guerra‘ (Italian for ‘marching to war’). Following the letter from his sweetheart, the song Come Home is introduced through the lyrical use of solo cello before being accompanied vocally through the exposition.  The piece finishes with the full choir providing a sentimental rendition of the melody.

Prior to the solider entering once more into battle, he recites the Psalm 23.  Using additional lyrics Hear My Prayer provides an emotional insight into his thoughts exploring the anxiety of moving in to battle and his longing for his religious inner self to be heard. Libera Me is the battle scene of the suite. Incorporating the text from the Requiem Mass Libera Me before concluding with a brief reprise from Hear My Prayer.

Requiem Auternum uses the text from the Requiem Mass and follows the letter from the Commanding Officer of the soldier’s demise.

His last letter is received by his mother after his death. Say Not Goodbye is sung from the soldier’s perspective taking a musical exploration of his life.

As the title suggests Remembrance has been written to acknowledge those that have given their lives and for the modern listener to recognise their ultimate sacrifice. In Feckenham, nobody who currently lives in the village is related to the names on the war memorial. Never the less, the community wishes to express its respect and gratitude.