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Reflections of 1914

7:45pm Thursday 31 July 2014
Worcester Cathedral, WR1 2LA


Elgar The Spirit of England

Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending

Torsten Rasch A Foreign Field

This poignant evening, marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, features the world premiere of A Foreign Field, by the German composer Torsten Rasch, commissioned jointly by the Three Choirs Festival and Chemnitz Opera. A choral memorial to the men who died on both sides and to communities affected by war, it sets extracts from both English and German-language poets of the WW1 era  – Ivor Gurney, Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Rainer Maria Rilke and Georg Trakl – together with Biblical psalm texts and parts of the Latin Requiem Mass.

A filmed interview with Torsten Rasch about the inspiration behind A Foreign Field appears here:

A Foreign Field

A Foreign Field has been commissioned by public subscription for the Three Choirs Festival 2014 and Städtische Theater Chemnitz, Erich-Schellhorn-Stiftung, as part of 14-18 NOW WW1 Centenary Art Commissions supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund. This performance is kindly supported by the Elmley Foundation and Anwen Walker. Choristers supported by Lee Bolton Monier-Williams.


  • Event information

    Edward Elgar The Spirit of England

    This patriotic work was based on 3 poems from Laurence Binyon’s slim volume of war poetry ‘The Winnowing Fan’ published in 1914; ‘The Fourth of August’, ‘To Women’ and ‘For the Fallen’, the last of which includes the poet’s most famous stanza They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old…..

    The three parts of The Spirit of England were first performed together in Leeds on 31 October 1917 with tenor and soprano soloists (Gervase Elwes and Agnes Nicholls). Elgar dedicated the work ‘to the memory of our glorious men, with a special thought for the Worcesters’. Resonant, powerful, and unfairly neglected today, it was at the time (to quote Ernest Newman)  ‘in truth the very voice of England’.

    Ralph Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending

    This wonderful pastoral work is indebted both to English folk song and to the composer’s reading of the work of the English novelist and poet George Meredith. For much of his life, Vaughan Williams lived near Dorking, Surrey, not far from Box Hill, where the poet died, crippled and nearly deaf, in 1909.

    Vaughan Williams originally wrote The Lark Ascending as a short romance for violin and piano. The autograph is prefaced by lines from Meredith’s poem, “The Lark Ascending.” When Vaughan Williams enlisted in the army in 1914 after the outbreak of World War I, he set the score aside. The experience of serving in the war as first an orderly with the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and then an officer, seems only to have heightened his nostalgia for a simpler time and for a world that no longer existed. It isn’t surprising that shortly after he came home in 1919, he picked up The Lark Ascending, lovingly fine-tuned it, and eventually orchestrated it as a touching souvenir of a time gone by.

    Excerpts from programme notes by Philip Huscher

    Torsten Rasch A Foreign Field

    Festival commission and world premiere

    1914 was the last glorious summer of peace before World War 1 began and the world was plunged into the madness of two world wars. In Dymock Gloucestershire, a gathering of poets took place including Rupert Brooke, Robert Frost, Edward Thomas, Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfred Gibson, John Drinkwater and Eleanor Farjeon who produced such well-loved poems as Adlestrop, Ryton Firs and the Road Not Taken. Thomas and Brooke both lost their lives in the Great War.

    With the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War dawning, we aim to create our own choral memorial to the men who died on both sides and to those in each community left behind; and to acknowledge that while war may always be with us we owe a debt of gratitude to those who fight on our behalf. Many references to war refer to waste and death but we wish to highlight the positive that can emerge from the horror.

    In 1945, Chemnitz in South East Germany was obliterated by Allied bombing.  We are joining forces with Chemnitz Opera to commission a 40-minute choral work by German composer Torsten Rasch to explore the effect of war on those left behind. Performances will take place at the Three Choirs Festival Worcester in July 2014  and Chemnitz in March 2015.

    A joint project across such an historic divide picks up elements that were common to both sides in two world wars and acknowledges the sacrifices made by each country and the long term and very similar effect on both our communities. The influence and effect of both wars still inform our lives today. Torsten Rasch will set the experience and words of the Dymock poets and others to illustrate these themes.

  • Tickets

  • Tickets for the festival will be available from Thursday the 17th of April 2014