Honley Male Voice Choir will lead an ‘army’ of more than 250 choral singers at a massed voice concert in Huddersfield Town Hall next month to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of World War One.
The evening, In Commemoration of Heroes, grew from an idea by the choir’s musical director Steven Roberts to bring singers from a number of groups together to produce a spectacular worthy of the centenary.
He explained: “Earlier this year we performed at the town hall with Lesley Garrett. Looking at the choir risers (seats where the choir sits) I thought it would be an ambitious idea to fill them completely with singers.... and there was born the idea - the coming together of people engaged in the same activity, which also resonated as the country was coming together to remember. I wanted voices to come together.”
And so the concert, on Saturday, September 20, will showcase the talents of the Honley men and incorporate voices from three other choirs directed by Steven - Altrincham Choral Society, Chesterfield Philharmonic and Unlimited Voices, whose membership is drawn from the North of England.
“When I asked the various choirs if they were interested they all said yes. Because it’s Huddersfield and it gives them a chance to sing at Huddersfield Town Hall.
“They also said it would be an honour to sing with a male voice choir,” said Steven.
He has also enlisted the help of the Royal British Legion and Honley Civic Society, whose members have produced a book about the village’s contribution to the war, to find archive material and images to use during the concert.
It will, he says, brings the sights as well as sounds of WWI to the town hall and provide a moving tribute to the fallen.
He added: “The idea for images, spoken word and song was loosely based on the format of the play Oh! What a Lovely War.
“The civic society found stories from The Examiner about local people who had experiences during the war.
“I have written my own words from them in order to convey how the war started and how it impacted on people from Honley and the surrounding villages.
“It is a snapshot of four years of torment that shaped where we are today.”
The choice of music for the programme will challenge the Honley singers, says Steven, but he’s confident that they will rise to the occasion.
Top of Steven’s list was the powerful and moving composition by Karl Jenkins, The Armed Man: A Mass For Peace, which has been performed nearly 1000 times in 20 different countries.
It was originally commissioned by the Leeds-based Royal Armouries at the time of the Kosovan conflict and has since come to be associated with the atrocities of terrorism.
He has also selected Wherever You Are, the chart-topping Military Wives single by Paul Mealor, whose Motet, Ubi Caritas was performed at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
The event will also feature a medley of Tunes From the Trenches and readings from war poet Laurence Binyon’s works We Will Remember Them and For the Fallen (along with the music of the same title by Jenkins).
With just a month to go before the concert Honley MVC has just confirmed that nationally renowned organist and pianist Jonathan Scott, who has appeared at the BBC Proms and recorded the piano music for the MIRAMAX film Brideshead Revisited, will be the accompanist for the event.
“This is a big project,” says Steven, who has been with the Honley men for 18 months now, “and I am confident that it will be a unique and poignant evening for the audience, a real tapestry of emotion, sadness, laughter and thoughtfulness.
“We will of course be featuring the fabulous Father Willis organ of the town hall during the concert.
“The message will ring out loud and strong of remembrance, peace, hope and camaraderie.
“The concert will make you think, make you cry and equally make you smile.”
Tickets, from £5, for In Commemoration of Heroes are available now from the town hall box office, 01484 223200 or online at www.kirklees.gov.uk