A POWERFUL piece of music specially-composed to pay tribute to the brief cessation of hostilites at Chistmas during World War One is to receive its Scottish premiere next month.
• Judith Bingham’s ‘The Christmas Truce’ tells of the story of the 1914 Christmas armistice in the trenches of France
• Excerpts from diaries, letters and news reports, alongside German and British Christmas carols form part of the tribute.
“The Christmas Truce”, by Judith Bingham, will be performed by the Amicus Orchestra and the Glasgow Chamber Choir in Glasgow University’s Memorial Chapel on 8 December.
The composition includes two male voice choirs, one singing hymns in English, the other in German.
The moment the truce is called for is depicted by one of the “German” singers stepping forward and shouting “Where are your Christmas trees...English don’t shoot. We won’t shoot if you don’t shoot.”
The music, composed in 2003, tells the story of the temporary armistice on Christmas Day 1914 in the trenches of the Western Front in northern France when soldiers from both sides ventured out into No Man’s Land to greet each other and exchange Christmas greetings.
It began on Christmas Even when the Germans began lighting candles on small Christmas trees in their trenches and singing hymns.
Ms Bingham combines texts from diaries, private letters and news reports, alongside German and British Christmas carols for the tribute.
Before the concert, held in the chapel built to commemorate members of the university killed in the Great War, the composer will give a talk about what motivated her to undertake the task.
Last night Ms Bingham said she had been inspired to write the piece after reading eye-witness accounts.
“The thing which struck me was that people tend to think of it as real opportunity for peace, for the men not to go back to war. It can all be rather nostalgic. But what summed it up for me was one soldier saying it was “like an interval in a boxing match.”
“The music represents that rather unsettling twist to everything, the way we make war and the way we talk about war and the fact that there is a lot of hypocrisy.”
The concert will be conducted by Michael Bawtree, said the music included the sounds of the bombardment in the trenches.
“Descriptive music is used for the bombardment which sounds quite agitated with lots of percussion. It has been a dream of mine to be able to perform this, especially as it very much relates to contemporary events which seem like they could be resolved if the will was there.”
Among the accounts of the truce is that of Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, who wrote in a letter to his mother: “Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged, addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc, One of our fellows offered a German a cigarette: the German said, “Virginian?” Our fellow said, “Aye, straight-cut”, the German said “No thanks, I only smoke Turkish!”...It gave us all a good laugh.”
• The Christmas Truce, Glasgow University Memorial Chapel, Saturday 8 December 2012, 7.30pm. Tickets £12.50, £8 (concession), £5 student, children under 16 years, free.
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