ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One hundred years ago Sunday, the European war that claimed 16 million people ended with the armistice.
Chatter will commemorate World War I on Veteran’s Day with music and poetry written during and about the bloodshed.
Organist and pianist Maxine Thévenot and baritone Edmund Connolly performed “The Great War in Poetry and Music” last summer at St. Martin’s Church, the burial place of Sir Winston Churchill.
After attending a Westminster Abbey service marking the centenary of the war’s outbreak, the pair were struck by the weight of the human toll the war took. The couple incorporated some of that music into what would become the Chatter program.
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed “The Lark Ascending” while watching Navy ships performing maneuvers off the southern English coast just before the war broke out.
“It’s one of the core pieces of the violin repertoire,” Connolly said.
The lyrical theme expounds on the beauty of nature, the opposite of what was about to unfold before him, Connolly added.
“He was technically too old” to enlist, Connolly said. “He was in his 40s. But he enlisted. He served on the medical corps.”
The continual barrage of gunfire damaged the composer’s hearing, leading to deafness in his later years.
Williams drove ambulance wagons in France and later Greece. The war left a lasting emotional impact on him. He lost friends and comrades, including the young composer George Butterworth.
The musicians will perform Butterworth’s “On the Idle Hill of Summer,” written before he enlisted in 1912 and based on a poem by A.E. Houseman.
The composer died in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest in history. The British suffered more than 57,000 casualties on the first day.
At the time, Butterworth was one of the most promising young composers of his generation.
“After he was killed, none of (the soldiers) knew he was a musician,” Connolly said. “It’s very prescient about young men being called to war and how senseless this is.”
Connolly and Thévenot will be joined by Donna Bacon on violin and narrator Spencer Beckwith of KUNM.