Unearthed Episode 3 – Miners March Choir

I am very proud to present the performance of a choral piece I wrote for the Unearthed project, remembering the tragedy at Lidice and the donations by the Miners of Stoke on Trent who vowed that ‘Lidice shall live!’ and pledged a days pay until the end of WWII to rebuild the village destroyed by the Nazis.

The piece consists of 6 parts, three harmonies constitute the ‘Follow’ line (though the harmonies don’t come in until the end), and then 3 melody lines run over each other after a staggered introduction.

I wrote this piece not knowing if we would have a full choir or just a handful of volunteers. As it happened, we ended up with the excellent Stoke 6th Form performing arts group and additional volunteers.

It is my first composed and performed piece for harmony voices, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out, especially considering how little time the guys had to learn, practice and choreograph the various entrances and routes of the melody groups that entered from three different angles to eventually join the backing group on stage.

I wrote this to be simple for each individual part, but when everyone is singing together, it is hard work to keep your ear on the beat, not waiver from your melody, and project. But they all did a fantastic job and I was so impressed when I heard it on the day.

I had the added honour of joining them for the performance, and that really helped me appreciate how well they had all put this together when I was fretting about my key, stage position, movements, projection!

The song is based on the poem I wrote ‘Barnett’s few’ – each verse is a melody. In the end due to time constraints, we didn’t include the final couplet outro, and opted for a unison ‘Follow, Follow!’ after a section of hummed melodies. This was worked out by the group themselves and I thought it was really effective in the end.

Anyway, please do take the time to have a watch and listen and if you enjoy it, visit http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk and make your pledge to remember the story of Lidice and have your initials included on a new sculpture to be unveiled later this year in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, by the Victoria Hall where MP Barnett Stross first vowed that ‘Lidice shall live!’.

For more on the story that inspired this, visit the Unearthed website. The lyrics (poem) that I wrote for this (before composing the music) can be found here:

https://garryabbott.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/barnetts-few/

 

Advertisements

Barnett’s Few

Image

Good morning.

I have had the privilege and pleasure this year of being involved in a community arts project in Stoke on Trent to commemorate the tragic destruction of the Czech town Lidice at the hands of the Nazi’s during the WWII. The small village was totally destroyed and most of the inhabitants brutally murdered. Following this atrocity, Stoke on Trent MP Sir Barnett Stross, declared that ‘Lidice Shall Live’, and roused the miners of Stoke to donate one days pay a week until the end of the war in order to rebuild a new town on the site and repatriate the few survivors.

It is a tragic story tempered by the inspirational response that the people of Stoke on Trent made. We can’t always stop terrible things happening, but we can choose how we respond in the most positive way possible. If anything ever demonstrated this principle, it is the story of Lidice.

So my colleagues, the design company ‘Dashy-Line’ have been commissioned to build a sculpture in Hanley (which is now the ‘main-town’ of Stoke on Trent), to commemorate this act of defiance in the face of hatred. They have designed a sculpture that will be clad in ‘miners tags’ showing the initials and day of birth of all the people who have promised to retell this story, and keep the memory alive.

This has involved engagement projects, to spread the story, and this is where I come in. I have written the script for a short animation that has been produced and presented to various groups and on-line, and also I wrote the score for a ‘Miners March Choir’ that was performed at a memorial service last Sunday.

It is the poem for the Miner’s choir that I wrote and used as the lyrics that I want to share with you today. Eventually I will have footage to show, but for now, the words I think, say it all about the choices the Miners made when asked the question, “Would you give up your hard earned pay?”.

After reading, I would urge you to visit http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk and make your pledge to share the story. It is totally free, and by doing so your initials will form part of the cladding on the new sculpture in Hanley that could, for all we know, be there for hundreds of years. Read the info, make your promise. It only takes a few minutes. Thank you.

Barnett’s Few.

by Garry Abbott

Would you give up your hard-earned pay

to keep a strangers memory

alive in lands so far away,

laid ruin by common enemy?

Would you give up your wage for hope

that light will pierce where darkness fell,

where ashes blanket field and slope,

where no-one gathers to the bells?

Would you head down the darkened pit

to pick at seams that lie so deep,

and profit less from toil and risk,

to keep forgotten dreams from sleep?

For Barnett’s few who chose to give,

the memory and Lidice lives.

Please visit http://www.unearthed2013.co.uk to make your promise. Thank you.