Wildflower Meadows

Mobilisation Wildflower Meadows copy

Wildflower Meadows was specially commissioned by Arts for Rutland with support from the Arts Council. The music was composed by the Dulwich-­‐born contemporary classical composer, Thomas Hewitt Jones. He was an organ scholar at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge and went on to win the BBC Young Composers Competition in 2003. He is best known for his compositions to accompany the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascot films and has several contemporary choral and ballet works to his name. A regular collaborator of Thomas Hewitt-­‐Jones, Paul Williamson, wrote the lyrics for Wildflower Meadows.

Song 1 is set in summer at the start of World War I. The Lindley Bell refers to the regimental bell of the Leicestershire Free Yeomanry, brought back after the Boer War from Lindley in Orange Free State, South Africa.

The second song. Autumn. highlights the difference between pre World War I cavalry fighting and trench warfare, incorporating the ‘gone, gone again’ theme from an Edward Thomas poem.

In the middle of the chaos of going ‘Over the top’ in Song 3 comes a strange moment of calm: when ‘five-nines’ (German 5.9 inch artillery shells) were fired, there was an eerie moment when you could hear them coming but did not know where they would land – and explode. The whizz-bangs in verse one are German high-velocity artillery.

Hold hard!’ (Song 4) was the rallying cry of Colonel Percy Evans-Freke of the Leicester Yeomanry who led and was killed with many of his troops at the Battle of Frezenberg (Belgium) in May 1915.

The names in the central stanza of song 5 (Remember me) are taken from the Leicester Yeomanry War Memorial in Oakham Castle to the memory of those members of A Squadron Leicestershire Yeomanry who gave their lives during World War I. Colonel Evans-Freke’s name heads the list.

Small sacrifices (Song 6) concentrates on the women of the war, the nurses and the calmness they could bring even as death approaches. It also pits war against the beauty of nature and the majesty of the night sky.

The final song, Wildflower Meadows, is a sonnet. We are brought back full circle to the summer of verse 1 – but to a happier, more forward-­‐looking summer. We have inherited the earth from those who have gone before, commemorating here especially the dead of World War I, but we tenant it for future generations too.

DSC_0159Rutland Music, the music hub for Rutland, is charged with implementing the National Plan for Music Education in the county. Responsibilities include widening young people’s access to singing and instrumental education and participation opportunities. The Wildflower Meadows project has involved 78% of the county’s primary schools and within these over 500 Key Stage 2 pupils have been supported to learn the commemorative piece, singing it both in school and at countywide joint rehearsals. Today’s performance is the culmination of this project and the world première of Wildflower Meadows. The project has also been the launch pad for a new county youth choir, Rutland Voices, formed in May with members from most Rutland primary schools.

Rutland Primary Schools taking parting the Wildflower Meadows project included Brooke Priory, Catmose Primary, Cottesmore Primary, Kendrew Barracks, Empingham C of E Primary, Exton & Greetham C of E Primary, Great Casterton C of E Primary, Ketton C of E Primary, Langham C of E Primary, Leighfield Primary, Oakham C of E Primary, Ryhall C of E Primary, St Nicholas C of E Primary, Cottesmore, Uppingham C of E Primary and Whissendine C of E Primary.

DSC_0163WILDFLOWER MEADOWS
Rutland Remembers 1914

1. THE LINDLEY BELL

Hey ho! Hey ho, with a ding dong bell!
With a hey nonino and a ding dong bell!
Ring, ding-a-ding the bell!

Old Lindley’s chimes urge yeomen to the task!
Defend the fortress nature built,
The castle in a wildflower field:
Its moat a meadow; walls sweet vernal-grass.
Hear the call and mobilise! Mobilise!
Urgent is the need for fighting men
To fight for a plot of green earth
And a patch of the infinite sky.

Ring, ding-a-ding the bell!
Ring, ding-a-ding the bell!

Old Lindley’s chimes urge freemen to take arms!
Do battle for this precious gem,
For quince trees in a silver field:
To save the young, the old, the frail from harm.
Hear the call and mobilise! Mobilise!
Urgent is the need for fighting men
To die for a plot of green earth
And a patch of the infinite sky.

Hey ho! Hey ho, with a ding dong bell!
With a hey nonino and a ding dong bell!
Ring, ding-a-ding the bell!
Hey ho! Hey ho, with a ding dong bell!

2. AUTUMN

Prepare to mount: mount!
Right about wheel!
Draw arms! Return arms!
Sling arms! Unsling arms!
Left about wheel!
To the halt!
Prepare to dismount:
Two, three, dismount!

Beneath the apple-scented skies
The well-drilled chargers exercise,
Their stirrups polished silver white:
On every brow a brass gleams bright.
They pause like hunters by a copse
Where casting hounds nose out a fox.
Murmuring, the starlings wheel and play:
Heavy autumn clouds of wheaten grey.

Gone, gone again,
May, June, July,
And August gone,
Again gone by.
Gone, gone again,
Again gone by.

The shrill commands and bugle calls
Dissolve in noisy, soaking squalls.
Invisibly, the rain-drenched land
Clutches the horses’ hoofs like hands
Concealed beneath the foul terrain,
Dark servants of the wind and rain.
Murmuring, the starlings wheel and turn:
Splitting thunder clouds that rage and burn.

Gone, gone again,
May, June, July,
And August gone,
Again gone by.
Gone, gone again,
Again gone by.

3. OVER THE TOP!

It’s a baptism of bullets:
The ranging fire, the rapid fire,
The spitting cracks of rifle shots,
The hurlyburly of whizz-bangs!

Up to our necks in mud so wet
It slides and slithers off the spade,
And filthy air blots out the sun
Till nightfall comes with stinging hail.

Quite calm above, five-­‐nines serenely sigh:
The wind cries dreamlike in the parapets
Like children playing tag beneath the trees.
From old King’s Cross a fast train leaves at three
And gets to Oakham just in time for tea.
A hollow blast! The swishing shell explodes!
Wakey wakey! Rise and shine! Rise and shine!

Foot sloggers all, with shaking knees,
With throbbing hearts and sobbing breaths,
Each stammers out the selfsame prayer:
Let death be peaceful. Death be quick.

It’s a regular inferno
And no use turning back: press on!
Advance! Engage! Fix bayonets!
Over the top! Over the top!

4. HOLD HARD!

Salvos of shells by the hundred
Blow the lads to smithereens,
Smash them to atoms terribly,
Burying us in debris
And strewing the ground with the dead.
Who thought so many could die?
So many dead, so many dead.
Paralysed with noise and fear,
And weak and faint—no rest, no sleep—
No way forward, no way back:
Shouting, we cheer like madmen,
We cheer and shout like madmen!
Hold hard, the yeomen, hold hard!

Deliver fire deliberately,
Shooting wildly takes few lives:
Shoot first, shoot true, shoot purposely.
Mechanised, the heavy guns
Attack the mud with mindless rage,
Peppering us with shrapnel.
It robbed me of a tooth it did!
Thank God for my luck, thank God!
Now weak and faint—no rest, no sleep—
No way forward, no way back:
Shouting, we cheer like madmen,
We cheer and shout like madmen!
Hold hard, the yeomen, hold hard!

5. REMEMBER ME

Like dead leaves in the frost they lie,
Fast fading out of sight.
Beneath hard winter’s canopy:
Lost, lost in endless night.

These words shall strike their elegy
In melancholy rhymes:
When winter’s past, remember me,
Toll, toll these passing chimes.

Freke and Blackett
Coy and Dalby,
Weetman, Gibson,
Ray and Gamble,
Smith and Cooper,
Bloodworth, Barker,
Hoyes and Harris,
Lee and Powell,
Laskey, Scott,
And all the rest who fought, who fell:
Forget them not, forget them not.

No funeral, no mournful bell:
In Flanders fields they lie.
No heavy-ringing, doleful knell:
In Flanders fields they died.

These words shall strike their elegy
In melancholy rhymes:
When winter’s past, remember me,
Toll, toll these passing chimes.

6. SMALL SACRIFICES

The sisters in their brilliant white,
With scarlet crosses, poppy red,
Are beacons in the fading light
That gently show the way ahead.

With simple words and tender hands,
They dress the wounds and banish tears:
Unfailing as the night descends,
Instilling strength and calming fears.

A young lad with a cheeky smile
Enlisted as a drummer boy.
As evening falls he stays a while,
His cheerful chatter spreading joy.

A sergeant dreams of going home
To kiss his wife and darling child;
Afraid to face the road alone,
His heart is touched with blessings mild.

Majestically against the sky,
The hills and woods are traced in shade:
The moon and stars rise splendidly
To dwarf the flashing cannonade.

Now tranquil in the nipping air
A soldier hums Abide with Me.
Through selfless acts of loving care
Hope gains a hard-­‐fought victory.

7. WILDFLOWER MEADOWS

Now May and June bring back their infantry
To take possession of the fertile field
With blood-­‐red poppies and fritillaries,
With seals of solomon and daffodils
That sway and nod their heads like bells that ring,
Ring out in celebration of a birth,
Or bless a marriage while high voices sing
A song in honour of resurgent earth
And bring the bustling cavalry to bear,
The dashing field mouse and the cautious shrew,
While larks and blackcaps fill the teeming air
With unschooled woodnotes, boisterous and true.
Now summer’s crowned in glittering majesty:
Reflect on those who left this legacy.