University of Chichester musicians mark the armistice centenary

Crispin (left) chats to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their recent visit to the university
Crispin (left) chats to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on their recent visit to the university

Crispin Ward, head of orchestral studies at the University of Chichester, is masterminding an Armistice Centenary Concert in Chichester Cathedral on November 10.

“On November 11 this year it will be 100 years that the armistice was signed, bringing an end to WWI. The cathedral is having a series of events to mark this and on the eve of the day we are having a performance of The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins and Voices of Remembrance by Laura Rossi.

“We will be bringing together several groups to perform with us, including the Portsmouth High School choir, Oakwood School choir, the University of Portsmouth Choir as well as three of our own choirs and symphony orchestra.”

Crispin is expecting around 150 performers: “I decided about 18 months ago that I wanted to do something. I approached the cathedral and it turned out that they had a commemorative weekend.”

Crispin has previously been involved in a performance of the score Rossi wrote for the silent film of the Battle of the Somme: “We wanted to perform another of her works, and this one is appropriate. There is poetry between the pieces. It is also very programmatic in that the music really describes. It is exploring the emotions of war. And then we will do The Armed Man which continues the war theme and ends on a note of peace and reconciliation.

“We did The Armed Man about six years ago in the cathedral, and it proved very popular. It is a very popular piece and a very effective piece. It has got very heavily-rhythmical qualities and whilst harmonically simple, it is harmonically very effective in creating an emotion.

“It is down to each group to rehearse and get themselves ready. We will have two rehearsals together, but before that they need to come in having already learnt it. We will have nine hours of rehearsals together. That should be enough to get my thoughts across. We have got to tell the story, but at the same time we have got to make it real to these people. They are both performing and listening. There is one section where all the performers scream for an extended period. That can be a real challenge to get them to understand what they are doing. They are not just making a shouty noise. They are screaming about the horrors of war, and that can be difficult to get them to realise, especially when there are young people there. But I think this will help them realise that there is an ability to do things without going to war, without hurting people. We must make sure that we are not glorifying war. This is a piece that is about not doing it anymore.”

It comes as the university’s music department finds itself in good health: “I have been part of it for about 14 years, and there were about 80 students when I first started. Now there are more than a thousand.

“We have worked very hard to choose modules and courses and degrees that are effective, and it is also about having very high standards.”

Tickets at www.chi.ac.uk/events or 0333 666 3366.

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