Ink dries on new WW1 commemorative music
Shropshire composer, Michael Turner, has just put the final touches to the second of two new
works that he has composed for a concert which will take place on 24 October in the Church of St
John the Baptist, Bishops Castle. Given by the Bloomsbury Chamber Orchestra, the programme
will feature music with strong links to the First World War.
The title of the first new piece, “A War Song Medley”, could not be clearer in its content. Taking ten
songs that were of particular significance during World War One, Michael has woven them into a
new arrangement for voices and orchestra. “I’ve used a number of very familiar tunes in this piece but also some that have, in my opinion, been unfairly overlooked”, said Michael. “In putting this medley together, I found it really interesting seeing which songs were truly patriotic morale-raisers and which were much more cynical in their references to the folly of the war itself”.
Michael has also written a wholly new work, again for voices and orchestra. “Then Only the Empty
Spaces” (the title of which was inspired by a line from a Rupert Brooke poem) explores not just the
devastation and loss that is referred to in much of the poetry and music written concerned with
WW1 but also notes that there was a triumphalist, go-getting attitude that was prevalent,
particularly at the beginning of the conflict. “I’m delighted that, in these two new pieces, the Bloomsbury Chamber Orchestra (which I’ve had the privilege of conducting for nearly 20 years) will be joined by the Shropshire Girls Choir. These excellent young voices, drawn from across the County, represent the naïve innocence with which so many people went to war, only for the reality of the battlefield to present a horrific prospect.”
In addition to these new works, both of which will be receiving their world premieres on 24 October,
the concert features a symphonic reminiscence of the war by Ralph Vaughan Williams and two
works by George Butterworth, who was killed in the trenches. In addition to the Shropshire Girls
Choir, the Bloomsbury Chamber Orchestra will also be joined by the outstanding Shropshire-based
tenor, John Bowen. “I’m sure that it’s going to be an excellent and thought-provoking concert”, said Michael Turner, whose thoughts now turn to two new compositions for performance in 2016.