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World premiere of moving tribute to Somme fallen

Monday 20 June 2016

A moving musical tribute to the thousands killed in the Battle of the Somme will receive its world premiere at the University of Salford.

The BBC Philharmonic will perform God’s Own Caught in No Man’s Land, specially commissioned from the University’s Professor of Music Stephen Davismoon, at a memorial concert honouring the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle.

The concert will take place at the University’s Maxwell Hall on Friday 1st July at 7.30pm.

The composition is a tribute to the fallen, regardless of nationality, but focuses on the tragic circumstances surrounding the large number of Salford Pals – young recruits from the city – who were killed on the first day of the battle at Thiepval in the Somme.

Around 650 local men, mostly from the Salford Pals battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers, died on the first day of fighting in 1916.

Many more were killed in the days that followed, and the tragedy had such a profound effect on the Salford community that July 1 was known as ‘Thiepval Day’ in the city for decades afterwards.

God's Own Caught In No Man's Land will be performed by full orchestra, choir, narrator, mezzo-soprano soloist as well as the playing of soundscapes connected to the Salford Pals.

These sounds include the creaking floorboards of Salford Lads’ Club – used as a recruiting station – the peal of bells at Sacred Trinity Church – the parish church of the Pals – natural sounds from The Cliff in Broughton, Conwy Morfa, Catterick, and Whitley Bay – where the young soldiers carried out their training – as well as sounds captured from locations in the Somme connected to the Pals.

The work sets poetry by Salford-born Winifred Letts, describing the brutal hardship and heartache faced by those left at home, which are contrasted with recollections from the front.

The memorial concert will also feature performances by the BBC Philharmonic of three British composers who served on the Somme – Ivor Gurney, Cecil Coles and George Butterworth. Of these, only Gurney was to survive the Great War.

The concert will be attended by members of the Lancashire Fusiliers regiment, including veterans from Broughton House Care Home, which was created as a home for wounded and disabled servicemen in 1916, as well as many other dignitaries.

There will also be a programme of events in and around the University of Salford Peel Campus to mark the centenary.

•             At 7am, a peal of bells will ring out from the Sacred Trinity Church followed at 7.30am by a memorial service at the Cenotaph in Fire Station Square opposite the University’s main campus.

•             Salford schoolchildren will perform pieces they have composed themselves, inspired by popular tunes of the day, at the University’s Peel Hall from 1pm.

•             The Honour Choir will perform a World War One themed programme in the amphitheatre outside the University’s newly-built New Adelphi Building at 3pm and 5pm.

•             A beautifully designed book of condolence, designed and produced by University of Salford Visual Arts students, entitled Our Own will be opened in Lower Maxwell Hall before the concert at 6pm.

Professor Davismoon said: “Hundreds of very young lives were needlessly lost in the Battle of the Somme – each one of them leaving behind parents, wives or children, creating shockwaves for decades afterwards – and it’s almost impossible to image the impact that this would have had on the entire Salford community.

“My work is an aural memorial to the fallen of the Somme, in particular the Salford Pals, setting many of their recollections, from enlistment through to full active service, to music; it was an honour to have been asked to write it. This is the most important piece of music I’ve ever composed and I only hope I’ve created a fitting tribute to those hundreds of young men.”

The concert is free but guests need to register for tickets by visiting:

Find out more

Conrad Astley

0161 295 6363