This started as a personal response to the 2014 centenary of the 1st World War.
I had been working on a version of Ivor Novello’s song, Keep the Home Fires Burning, which has a beautiful and moving melody and chorus. I was trying to make the rather mawkish patriotic verses more relevant to the war as we understand it today.
I was interested to read that, despite our government’s apparent wish to promote the centenary as a patriotic celebration, most people say they are mainly interested in learning about what it was like to live through that war. From that I started to look for more songs that conveyed something of the experience of war until it seemed that I had a set of 7 songs and a poem that spanned the century and each of them revealed a different kind of experience.
Some of the songs I perform pretty well as they were originally written. In other cases I have tried to come up with an arrangement and sometimes some new words that might help the listener to reflect on the experience of war and avoid any partisan tendencies.
Because I have worked for much of my life with images it was not a big step to decide to perform the songs with a slideshow of photographs and artworks that illustrated the events in the songs. So in this performance I’m suppressing my usual egotistical tendency to interact face to face with my audience and instead hoping that people will find the combination of songs and images engaging.
And because the material is intended to be thought-provoking, I hope we will be able to have a good discussion after the set. I’m very pleased to have Brendan Murphy of University of Sheffield coming along to moderate the discussion at most public performances. Brendan’s particular expertise is on the nature of armies, particularly the huge social changes in the German army in WW1, and ordinary people’s experience of that war, but his knowledge of and insight into conflict in the 20th Century is very broad.