Remembering World War I:
One Book, Two Commissions, and Three Publications
Mark Nabholz, DMA
November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended hostilities in World War I. The Mississippi Master Chorale, an auditioned mixed ensemble of 32 voices that I am privileged to conduct as a part of my duties with The Mississippi Chorus, is presenting a concert on that date to mark the occasion. This post will share resources that I found in the search for repertoire.
First, a book called “Mississippians In the Great War: Selected Letters,” compiled and edited by Anne L. Webster (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2015) drew me fully into the impact that The War to End All Wars had on our state. Our concert narrator will share excerpts from a few letters: some funny, some heartbreaking, all written under the immediate backdrop of tragedy too often lost on us who did not experience it first-hand.
After compiling a list of popular tunes from the WWI era, such as “Over There,” “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” and several more, I began the usual Google and JW Pepper searches to locate choral arrangements. Alas, there were none – if they existed at one time, they were long ago POP (Permanently Out of Print). Considering the importance of the centenary observation this was surprising, but undeterred I contacted my good friend James Sclater, award winning Mississippi composer, to gauge his interest in making an arrangement of “Over There,” which I had intended as the concert title. Not only was he interested, but he said, “I’ll be happy to arrange ‘Over There’ if you will also let me arrange ‘Tipperary.’ I’ve wanted to do that one for years!”
If you're interested in considering James Sclater's arrangements of these two tunes, contact him directly at email@example.com.
Next, I commend for your consideration two settings of Wilfred Owen* poems by Canadian composer, Larry Nickel: “Move Him Into the Sun,” from a larger work Crimson Stain, and “Dulce et decorum,” from his multi-movement Requiem for Peace. Both settings are intensely personal, first-person accounts of the human cost of war and the horrifying developments that made their way onto the early 20th century battlefield. They are also the most challenging pieces on the program, both musically and emotionally.
Use these links to read both poems and hear samples of the music: Move Him Into the Sun: http://larrynickel.com/CanuckComposer/WCMCCMove.html. Dulce et decorum: http://larrynickel.com/CanuckComposer/RFPDulce.html.
The program will conclude with the familiar and beautiful “Danny Boy,” arranged by Joseph Flummerfelt (). The tune is an ancient Irish folk ballad, but the words commonly associated with it were written by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly in 1913. Perhaps the most popular song of the WWI era, “Danny Boy” was recorded by over 100 performers within the first few years of its existence.
I hope you will be inspired to memorialize this important centennial with your church or community choir. If you are not able to do so, I hope you’ll join The Mississippi Master Chorale for our performance at 3:00 p.m. on November 11, 2018, at St. Columb’s Episcopal Church in Ridgeland, MS. Veterans are admitted free of charge, and will be honored at a reception following the program. Corporate sponsorship is provided by A Complete Flag Source, Jackson.
* (1893-1918), English poet and soldier killed in France during the final days of the war.