WW1 Centenary: A Proposal for a Children’s concert in Birmingham

Birmingham Press reader Dr Ron Dawson has sent a message aimed at schools and musicians across Birmingham.

WW1 - war grave

As all must know, next year is the Centenary of the beginning of the First World War and various commemorations are being planned to mark this event.

As a ‘Brummie’ – born in Dudley Road Hospital, 1940, and reared in Kingstanding and whose adopted father served in the Flying Corps and whose mother lost two brothers in that war – I have a particular interest in hoping that Birmingham might present an innovative and definitive programme of Remembrance.

To this end I have two proposals for which I am seeking support and help to promote and then perhaps become involved with. I am putting these proposals to the City Council in the hope of gaining its support.

Some background: Last year I wrote and co-compose a musical composition to be used on occasions of Remembrance and Repatriation called ‘Lest we forget‘.

The piece was taken up almost immediately and performed by choirs and/or military style bands across the world. Its ‘world premiere’ for example was in the New Zealand Parliament at the inauguration of their Malayan Veterans Day and I have given a list of other notable performances, including one by the Band of the Parachute Regiment on Cyprus last Armistice Day. Unfortunately,  my home town of Birmingham has not, so far,  featured. I can assure you that this was not from a lack of effort on my part.

I was sent a particularly lovely recording of the piece by a Canadian School Choir. I found that hearing it being sung by young children very poignant and emphasised that children should always be central in services or concerts of Remembrance.  You can listen to it at http://trombonemusic.co.uk/lestweforget/lestweforget.html

The track below include a live version for two part school choir and piano (RoseLawn School Choir, Canada, aged 8-12 years) and also a demo version which is intended to give a flavour of the version for full choir.

Please set aside some time to listen to it.

The world wide adoption of the piece suggests that it would be entirely appropriate for it to be included within a Centenary programme in Birmingham. The words embody the ethos, mood and tragedy of that dreadful war; for example ‘wreaths of poppies, pride and tears’, ‘fields of mud and hills of sand’.

I met with Kevin Morgan, my co-composer of ‘Lest We Forget’ recently and part of our discussions focused on the WW1 Centenary Commemorations. The recording of the Canadian School Choir of the piece emphasised to us that it is vital that young children are centrally involved in any Commemorations programme, both in terms of enhancing their awareness of the tragedy of war and for their essential role in carrying the forward collective memory and gratitude to future generations.

As a result of our discussion, we agreed to provide the appropriate musical arrangements and sheet music for our composition, ‘Lest we Forget’ available, on request, free of all charge to all Primary, First and Middle Schools and other recognised children’s groups  in the West Midlands  as part of the overall programme to commemorate the Centenary of the beginning of the First World War.

The act of singing as part of a large group engenders a whole range of very positive and life enhancing emotions.

This led me on to develop a somewhat natural follow on from the proposal above; that is to present a WW1 Children’s Commemorations concert.

‘They gave their tomorrows for our today’.

Birmingham Children’s WW1 Remembrance Concert

  • The proposal is for a Birmingham/West Midlands Concert comprising of music, poetry and readings performed only by children.
  • All choirs, musicians and readers to be under the age of 16 and, if possible, to total in number 1914.
  • The concert could take place in a large enclosed place, eg The Symphony Hall (probably necessitating a charge, but with any profit being donated to an appropriate charity) or an open public space eg Centenary Square and the Hall of Memory (this would be totally in keeping and is my preferred option at this moment).
  • If I can garner sufficient support for this proposal I would prepared to form a group to formulate and organize the event. For my first proposal I am hoping your group might help to make our sheet music offer known to all children’s groups in the West Midlands.

I would be delighted to discuss either of these proposals in detail if you are at all interested.

You can contact Ron either via The Birmingham Press [email protected] or at [email protected]

Ron writes popular books for children, details here