Mark-Anthony Turnage is a contemporary composer
who successfully fuses the music of the concert
hall with improvisatory jazz. His music reflects
his sharp awareness of the world around him -
the arts, politics and everyday life, including
football. He is an avid Arsenal supporter!
A number of his works reflect his abiding interest
in the First World War and its aftermath.
'Silent Cities', was inspired by a
visit to the cemeteries on the Somme and named
after the writer Rudyard Kipling's description
of that same place. This work is dedicated to
the memory of Sir Michael Tippett.
'The Torn Fields' is a song-cycle for baritone
soloist and ensemble, settings of First World War poetry
and prose by Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles
Sorley, Siegfried Sassoon, and Rudyard Kipling.
Owen, Rosenberg and Sorley were killed in action and
are commemorated by the CWGC.
Find out more about them in the
CWGC book 'Poets of the Great War.'
Nearly 50 at the start of the First World War, Kipling
himself did not fight but his son John was killed in
1915, at the Battle of Loos. He was only 18. Kipling's
lament for his dead son can be found in 'The Torn
son was killed laughing at some jest. I would
I knew what it was, And it might serve me when
jests are few.'
'The Silver Tassie' is an opera created from
the play of the same name by Irish writer Sean O'Casey.
Young Harry Heegan, just before returning to fight on
the Western Front in 1915, wins a football cup (The
Silver Tassie) and the adoration of his girlfriend.
In France he is seriously wounded, which leaves him
paralysed below the waist. Back home, his girlfriend
takes up with his best friend instead and Harry's joy
and optimism is replaced by bitterness and despair.
You may like to compare the story of Harry Heegan
with that of the protagonist in the poem 'Disabled'
by Wilfred Owen. Both are healthy, sporting young men
whose war injuries leave them crippled, not only in
body, but also socially, and in spirit.
Listen to some
of Mark-Anthony Turnage's work.
Choose a poem from
the First World War and set it to music.