Choral Society to Mark D-Day Anniversary With Songs of Peace

To mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day, The Henley Choral Society will presenting a stirring concert inspired by war and peace on Saturday 6 April at The Great Hall, University of Reading.

The concert will see works by British composers written between 1916 and 1945, on the themes of peace, service and sacrifice.  Christine Cunnold, soprano, Ross Ramgobin, baritone, The London Collective orchestra, and the 80-strong chorus, will perform Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem (‘Grant us peace’), Elgar The Spirit of England and Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice by Gerald Finzi. The concert will include a retiring collection in aid of the Royal British Legion.

Henley Choral Society Chair Dr Tim Wilson explains, ”Our programmes are prepared some 12-18 months in advance. When our Musical Director, Richard Harker proposed a concert of these three beautiful and thought-provoking works, we realised that we would be performing them in 2024 – the year that marks the 80th anniversary of D-Day, the largest Naval, Air and Land Operation in history. It seemed a very fitting time to be putting on such a concert and we therefore chose the Royal British Legion as the beneficiary of the retiring collection at the concert.”

RBL Branch Chairman for Henley-on-Thames, Anne Evans said, “This is very good news indeed and I would like to thank Henley Choral Society and their committee for thinking of the Royal British Legion.”  Yanto Evans, who is Poppy Appeal Manager for Oxfordshire said, “The Royal British Legion is dependent on volunteers and events such as this concert to raise funds.” Mr Evans joined the army when he was 17 and served in Northern Ireland, Belize and the Falklands but his career came to an end 15 years later in 1995 when he lost his leg. He added, “Donations raised from such events go to supporting the armed forces community and their dependants. We thank Henley Choral Society for supporting the Royal British Legion.”

Richard Harker Choral Society Musical Director comments, “Vaughan Williams’ 1936 cantata Dona Nobis Pacem (‘Grant us peace’), is a plea for peace and tolerance, written during the deepening sense of foreboding of the mid-1930s. Vaughan Williams was a volunteer ambulance driver on the front lines in World War 1, and subsequently an artillery officer, where the noise of the guns destroyed his hearing. Dona Nobis Pacem is an exploration of the composer’s experiences, moving through darkness before a call for rejuvenation, harmony and shared humanity. Elgar was deeply affected by the suffering caused by the First World War and, as early as 1915, selected three poems by Laurence Binyon to set to music.   Today, Laurence Binyon is best-known for one famous verse from his poem For the Fallen – ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old’ which is included in this piece. Completed in 1917, The Spirit of England, is one of Elgar’s less well-known works but contains all the motifs we might expect from Elgar as well as new and inventive ideas. British composer Gerald Raphael Finzi wrote Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice in 1946. This lyrical work has become a favourite in the choral repertoire; however it is rarely performed as it will be here, with a full orchestra. We are delighted that this concert will provide a special opportunity to appreciate Finzi’s haunting choral masterpiece.”

Christine Cunnold, soprano,  trained with English National Opera on their Opera Works programme and has sung with the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Aix en Provence Festival, and Birmingham Opera Company.  Baritone Ross Ramgobin has appeared with Birmingham Opera Company, ENO, Opera Holland Park, Glyndebourne Festival Opera,  Scottish Opera, and with conductors including  Sir Mark Elder and Sir Simon Rattle. They will be accompanied by the London String Collective, led by Abigail Dance, joined by handpicked wind, brass and percussion players.

In light of the train strike on 6 April the Choral Society are now offering coach travel from Henley train station to the historic Great Hall in Reading for this concert. All details are on the website  www.henleychoralsociety.org.uk. For those happy to drive there is free parking at the venue.

Tim concludes, “Wonderful, evocative music, a free glass of wine or soft drink, the chance to contribute to the Royal British Legion and you can let the coach take the strain – we are so looking forward to providing a very special evening for our community on April 6th.”

Tickets £23; £5.00 concessions including for under 25s, veterans and current members of the services.

Book online www.henleychoralsociety.org.uk

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