The English Music Festival 2015 – Nine Years Old and Still Vibrant

 The English Music Festival 2015 – Nine Years Old and Still Vibrant

2016 will have seen ten years of English Music Festival. It is remarkable that the EMF has such carrying power. This must be put down to the organising and imaginative force that is Em Marshall-Luck. One only worries a little that it has the appearance of relying so heavily on one person of remarkable insight and the power to carry that into practical effect; not that she is alone in the organisation of this major Festival –  four days of concerts and music events packed deep and tight. However that’s probably true of many another endeavour and this one shows every sign of gathering momentum and enriched vision rather than losing propulsion or valour. Add to this a strong social dimension. There are bookable lunches and buffets laid on for three of the four days. This is not to forget EMF concerts in London, Paris and a three day mini-Festival in Yorkshire in September, the music publishing activities of EM and the rich flow of British recording premieres on EM Records.

Stand for Truth and Honour – Music and Poetry of WW1: Pre-Concert Talk by John Francis, Village Hall, Dorchester on Thames, 22.5.2015

The Friday talk and evening orchestral concert in Dorchester Abbey ushers in the festival. John Francis gave this talk. He is Vice-Chairman of the RVW Society. He emphasised the headline significance of poetry in 1914-18 society. This was a world largely innocent of radio and with no social media or television. Even the cinema was in its infancy. The Oxford Book of English Verse was tucked into back pocket of the English soldier. Likewise Housman’s A Shropshire Lad found its way into the trenches. This was a freshly couched talk reflecting considerable thought and knowledge of the sources. It was distinguished by tellingly chosen extracts from poetry and vocal settings where the sung words appeared on screen with a picture of the relevant composer. The musical extracts were smoothly presented and included Elgar’s and Rootham’s contrasting ways with Binyon’s For The Fallen – both effective and moving but with Elgar the more modern and nuanced. We also had Brian Blessed’s hugely projected Bliss Morning Heroes – very impressive. For me discoveries included Blow Out You Bugles by Frank Bridge. There were also Alan Gray’s sober The Dead and musical extracts from female composers Rebecca Clarke and Lilian Elkington – the latter’s remarkably concentrated and atmospheric Out Of The Mists.

Rob Barnett

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