Remembrance weekend is a time of reflection and contemplation and especially poignant this year as it marks the centenary of the First World War.
Parades, church services and wreath-laying will be held all over the country as people turn out to pay tribute to those laid down their lives for their country.
It’s also a time when music and theatre groups commemorate those whose ultimate sacrifice made this country a safe place for future generations.
Never Forget is the title of this weekend’s tribute by Tideswell Male Voice Choir and guests which will be presented at Buxton Opera House this evening (Sunday, November 9).
Last night’s premiere at Chesterfield’s Pomegranate Theatre was poignant and powerful, tugging at heart-strings in one song, lifting spirits in the next.
It moved several members of the audience to a standing ovation at the end of American Trilogy, others wiped away tears as a trumpeter sounded The Last Post from the balcony and red confetti floated onto the floor of the stage like poppy petals blowing in the breeze.
The opening of the concert was even more dramatic, a searchlight strafing the audience, the sound of gunfire and bomb explosion erupting from the speakers followed by eerie silence as Philip Holland walked on stage to read the poem Aftermath against a projected backdrop of war photos.
Philip returned in the second half to read his specially composed poem Conscience as a precursor to the choir’s performance of Bui Doi from Miss Saigon, introduced by the sound of helicopter rotor blades and accompanied by heart-rending images of children born during the Vietnam War.
Equally moving was the sharing of First World War letters to the family of Able Seaman Fred Fielden of Middleton Junction, near Manchester, from hospital staff who had nursed the dangerously ill gunshot victim back to fitness. Fred’s relatives were among the audience to hear the readings by Jennie Gill as was the choir’s president Edwina Currie.
Soloist Erin Alexander stepped into the breach to sing Danny Boy when its scheduled soloist Charlotte Hoather was despatched home due to illness. Erin also entertained the audience with the comical number Thing-Ummy-Bob done in Gracie Fields’ trademark Lancashire accent.
Counter-tenor Kieron Connor-Valentine shone in his delivery of wartime favourites such as Smile and There’ll Always Be An England, the latter leading up to an audience singalong of other classics.
hilip Rigley’s performance of the Civil War anthem Tell My Father was another standout number in this spectacular concert.
The future of performance arts is safe in the hands of the younger generation as proved by ten-year-old Madeleine Osborne who lit up the stage with her rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, accompanied by seven danchers from Buxton Community School.
A medley of Les Miserables featured solos from Tim Robinson, Matthew Mellor and Philip Rigley followed by a storming version of Do You Hear The People Sing? performed by Tideswell Male Voice Choir.
Highlights of the choir’s performances included Softly As I Leave You and Wherever You Are, the latter adapted for male voices from the chart-topping song made famous by the Military Wives.
Guest musicians Corus Brass Ensemble entertained with compositions written by French horn player John Parkinson which included Rise Up. Works themed on London showed the diversity of the ensemble’s playing, Cenotaph setting a sombre, respectful tone in contrast to Trafalgar Square which was bursting with joie de vivre.
Conducted by the choir’s director of music Dennis Kay, accompanied by pianist Christopher Ellis and drummer Des McGill, this is one concert that all who see it will never forget.