Concert reflects on the realities of war

REVIEW: Wooler at War Concert, Saturday, November 8.

Across the country, commemorative events are being held to recognise those who lost their lives in the First World War, encouraged by the Last Post Project.

Our event in Wooler combined music and song, story and a slideshow, and was an expansion of the annual Poppy Concert which Margaret Brown has organised for many years.

Perhaps the most memorable part of the evening was the contribution of the students from Glendale Middle School, with their readings of poems and letters composed by their peers of the year before, along with the recitation of the names of the many fallen from our community, accompanied by slides of old Wooler at the start of the 20th century.

The Glendale Voices choir, led by Veronica Gilbert, gave structure to the programme, starting with the spirit of patriotism and good cheer which pervaded those joining up at the start of the war.

Their fine singing covered well-known songs such as Hearts of Oak and Drink To Me Only, along with the singalongs of Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles which soldiers sang on their way to the front.

Lois Day, George Niles, Ben Murray-John and James Cook read very movingly, with poems and letters which expressed the hopes and worries of these young men, just a few years older at the time than they are now.

To keep our spirits up, the Tootlers recorder group, using five different recorders, played a range of old dances.

The second part of the evening became more sombre, reflecting the reality of the experience of trench warfare.

Traditional tunes from Margaret Brown and Saryan Creigh on accordion and fiddle introduced more letters home from the front, once again very well read by Jessica Crossman, Paige Faircloth, Jessica Dean-Hall and Heidi Bell. Connor Richardson read a letter about going over the top, which gave a real sense of the horrors of war.

Then the reading of the names started, creating a slow chant as we looked at life in Wooler a century ago. We also heard more about two of the fallen, the lives they had led and contemporaries’ reflections about them. Mike Young read a poem about the deeply moving story of the Christmas truce.

Glendale Voices, who had interspersed the programme with relevant songs, continued the theme of remembrance, with Only Remembered from War Horse, and then Glendale Middle School students Sarah Larmour and Ruari Fletcher read extracts from diaries of their recent visit to the Western Front sites.

The instrumentalists played the Last Post and the choir sang Taps.

Finally, to lift us out of too much sadness and remind us that we learned after two world wars that we should make peace not war, Glendale Voices provided a rousing rendering of Down By The Riverside.

We all had a memorable evening, combining enjoyment and commemoration, with all funds going to the Royal British Legion.

Patsy Healey