A concert was held at the Royal Academy of Music on 16th January 2016,
produced by Fiona MacDonald, of the Scottish charity GLEN ART.
It recalled the letter sent to Tagore by Wilfred Owen’s mother Susan, and also paid tribute to the 1.4 million Indian soldiers who fought in World War I. The director of the Cultural wing of the Indian High Commission, Mr Srinivas Gotru, was a guest of honour, representing the land of Tagore.
The concert opened with a rendition of “Silent Night” by the Indian baritone Darwin Leonard, with the second verse sung in Hindi!
Renowned actor Timothy West read a passage from Tagore, and one of Wilfred’s letters to his mother, from the front line in February 1916, a hundred years ago. He also read the poem “Disabled”.
Rufus Lawrence, cellist from Imperial College, and member of the RAM Isabella Schofield, pianist, gave a fine interpretation of Moeran’s “Prelude”, and Jeremy Limb played “Improvisations for the Left Hand”, composed by Frank Bridge for a pianist who lost his right arm in the war.
Helen Ryan gave a moving reading of Owen’s poem “S.I.W.” and the concert ended with Prunella Scales reading Susan’s letter to Tagore, and West reading the poem which inspired it - “Parting Words”.
But for this listener the highlight was the singing of four of the six songs from Butterworth’s settings of “A Shropshire Lad”, ending with a magical interpretation of my favourite “Is My Team Ploughing?”. Darwin Leonard most sensitively contrasted the plangent melancholy tone of the ‘ghost’ with the hearty confidence of his surviving friend, now living with his former girlfriend - a most poignant performance!
The President of the Wilfred Owen Association, Wilfred’s nephew Peter Owen, gave an impromptu Vote of Thanks to all the performers, and the RAM for hosting, and our thanks go out to Fiona MacDonald for arranging such a moving and enjoyable concert.
Timothy West (L) and Prunella Scales (R). Copyright GLEN ART
Review by Sam Gray, WOA Treasurer