The cultural programme to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War was launched this morning aboard HMS President, one of the three remaining British ships from the conflict.
Events and projects will cross genres, including theatre, visual arts and literature. Music is represented in a joint project from the Three Choirs Festival and Germany’s Chemnitz Opera, who have commissioned the German composer Torsten Rasch to write a 40-minute work for choir, soloists and orchestra setting poetry from the First World War. The libretto specifically draws on the writings of the Dymock Poets – the group including Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke and Robert Frost – who lived and wrote near each other in the Gloucestershire countryside prior to the conflict, as well as on their Austro-German contemporaries Georg Trakl and Rainer Mari Rilke.
Worcester is hosting the Three Choirs Festival this year, and Baldur Brönnimann will conduct the work - performers include the Philharmonia Orchestra and baritone Roderick Wiliams - in a programme which also features Elgar’s The Spirit of England and Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending.
The anniversary itself of Britain’s entry into the war, on August 4, will be marked by a special late night Prom featuring a significant premiere – details of which are embargoed until the Proms launch on April 24. It will, however, be part of a nationwide event called Lights Out, in which everyone throughout the UK will be invited to turn off their lights and replace them with one single light, echoing the then Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey’s words to a friend: ‘The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.’ The evening will also feature a candlelit service at Westminster Abbey.
Other projects include repainting two ships from the First World War – including HMS President – in homage to the ‘dazzle ships’, those camouflaged through the use of bold and complex patterns of geometric shapes drawing on styles such as vorticism and cubism by artists including Edward Wadsworth. Cartoons and public information art on the underground will also feature, as will an installation by Anya Gallaccio at the Aldeburgh Festival. A ‘Letter to an Unknown Soldier’ invites people – including famous writers and poets – to imagine the contents of the letter being read by the bronze statue of a soldier, the war memorial by Charles Sargeant Jagger, at Paddington Station.
For more information about the 14-18 NOW commissions and events, visit the dedicated website: 14-18 - Now