So, we have now returned to England and have wended our way north to Chester and Sheffield. It’s been a remarkable few days, for a whole host of reasons.
First and foremost, the horrors of the First World War became slightly more real. I say “slightly” because nothing could ever reveal its true nature to us of course. But seeing the monuments listings tens of thousands of names of the missing; being in cemeteries where thousands of graves (in one case over 10,000) lay; and seeing signs for Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries what seemed like every few hundred yards just began to give an indication of the gargantuan scale of the conflict. In addition, in following the stories (and battles) of a few individuals - who just happened to be composers and poets - we could envisage some of the particular action, including individual heroism and tragedies, and could see the sheer futility of some of the decisions made.
Incidentally, on the subject of cemeteries, we have to pay tribute to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, whose cemeteries are kept absolutely wonderfully. We would also like to thank everyone who helped us along the way, and allowed us to play in places where we might not have expected it automatically; including the Thiepval monument and Talbot House. There was nowhere that we asked to play where we were not allowed to, and the respect and friendship shown by everyone - locals, staff, and visitors alike - was a real hallmark of this particular tour.
Of course it had its lighter moments too - including the car being towed away (which we could laugh about eventually), and some wonderful food and drink (well, we were in France after all!). But it is the likes of George Butterworth and Wilfred Owen who will stay with us. Requiescat in pace.
We will, of course, be back for more adventures in the future... we expect to have another major challenge in 2020. Watch out for more information on that in due course, either here, or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts (or via our newsletter). We’ll be doing a few smaller things in the mean time too... we’ll write the occasional blog post about those too!
It merely remains for us to leave you with a collection of photos from the trip (see below*), and to give you our highlights of the tour.
(*These may not appear in the email version of the blog: if not, then visit the web site).
Highlights of the tour (one from each of us):
- James: Playing at the side of the Sambre- Oise canal, at the spot where Wilfred Owen was shot merely a week before the end of the war
- Clare: Playing at the cemetery at Anzin, where her grandfather had served (and where it is likely that some of his fellow soldiers were buried.
- Jeremy: Playing at the Thiepval Memorial, under the Francis Purcell Warren inscription, with an appreciative and emotional audience.