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York hosts World War I music festival

Posted on 19 February 2015

The University of York’s Department of Music and Humanities Research Centre (HRC) will jointly host a two day festival and conference on music from World War I next week.

Over Here and Over There: The Music of World War I will take place on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 February. Featuring a series of lectures and concerts on music written and performed during the First World War, it will explore how music defined and united British and American relations.

Opening at 6pm on Friday 27 February, Professor Rachel Cowgill will deliver a keynote address in the HRC’s Bowland Auditorium. At 9.30pm, a fully staged performance of Stravinsky’s classic The Soldier’s Tale will take place in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, conducted by John Stringer and directed by Tom Gadie.

On Saturday 28 February at 1.15pm, a free concert The War Years will feature songs and chamber music from, during or about the Great War. Taking place in the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, it will be performed by students participating in the undergraduate project The Music of World War I.

At 7:30pm, the University of York Chamber Orchestra and selected soloists present After the Lusitania. Featuring a performance of Frank Bridge's Lament, written in response to the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915, the concert will also include the first York performance of James Whittle’s a drawing-down of blinds (2014), written in memory of the Great War, Edward Elgar’s seldom seen Une voix dans le desert and selected World War One songs from Britain and America.

Talks and papers will also be delivered on Saturday 28, with York students presenting their research into the war from 10am – noon. At 3pm, a series of scholarly papers by distinguished international visitors Christina Bashford, Deniz Ertan, and Gayle Sherwood Magee will be presented. All talks will take place in the Rymer Auditorium at the Music Research Centre, linked with the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall.

Professor William Brooks, from the University of York’s Department of Music, said: “From 1914 to 1917, World War I was the ‘Great War’ or the ‘War in Europe’ to Americans. But by late 1915 the United States had already taken sides, in effect, by beginning a campaign of ‘preparedness’ for entering the conflict. A gradual but inexorable shift to engagement followed, and in that shift a crucial part was played by music—probably the cultural commodity that was most pervasively shared between the United States and England. In the years that followed, to the end of the war and after, music was a great force for unity, not only within the separate countries but across the ocean.

“Through staged performance, concerts, talks and discussions, audience members and conference guests will experience and discover music written and performed during World War I, and hear about the part that British and American music in particular played in bringing America into the war and sustaining the alliance thereafter.”

York’s festival is the first of three linked international conferences, the second taking place on 7 March at the Society for American Music in Sacramento, California, and the third taking place at the University of Illinois on 10 and 11 March.

Tickets are free for all events, except for the Friday and Saturday evening concerts which carry a nominal charge. For tickets, visit:

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