Remembering the Great War

PoppiesOn 16th November, we are mounting the world premiere of a new work by Michael Finnissy, concerned with themes of war and remembrance in commemoration of the onset of WWI.  Lecturer in Composition Ben Oliver will conduct:  As the conductor of new music group Workers Union Ensemble I am fortunate to conduct around five to ten world premiere performances each year. I absolutely love learning and rehearsing new repertoire; it is such a joy to explore a new score with fellow musicians. It is also terrific to work with living composers as you can then ask them about their intentions and reactions to their piece!

So when Andrew Pinnock phoned me up earlier this year and asked if I might be interested in conducting the premiere of Michael Finnissy’s Remembrance Day this autumn I jumped at the chance. The work features orchestra, piano (played by Michael himself), choir and a baritone soloist and will be performed by students and staff members from the music department at Southampton alongside singers from the amazing vocal group Exaudi and players from the London Sinfonietta.

Poet Henry Lamont Simpson
Poet Henry Lamont Simpson

Preparing the score of the 60+ minute score has been quite a task, but one that I have enjoyed tremendously. Michael draws on texts in English by Henry Lamont Simpson, German by Goethe and Latin by Peter Abelard in a really interesting way, and manages to coherently reference and synthesise musical ideas from the time of the First World War. I think it is an amazing and moving work and I am looking forward to putting it together in the coming weeks.

The performance on 16th November at the Turner Sims will be the culmination of many weeks of sectional and tutti rehearsals and an awful lot of hard work by our terrific students. I hope to see you there!

For more information about the premiere and the weekend activities around it (composition workshops, talks and open rehearsals) see the university’s Great War, Unknown War page.

BOOK TICKETS to the premiere performance, on 16 November at 7:30 pm in Turner Sims.

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