After 14 months of effort by a small community in Worcestershire, an hour-long narrative ‘Suite For The Fallen Soldier’ premieres in Feckenham on Armistice Day 2016.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, award winning composer Phil Mountford was commissioned by Feckenham World War 1 Commemoration Group to write a suite of music commemorating the Great War. Working alongside poet and local historian Kathy Gee, who wrote the spoken-word narrative, the Suite combines a series of vivid experiences portrayed in contemporary classical music, and letters between the soldier and family members. It tells his story from enlistment to death and the subsequent effect on his family and community.

While many villages are commemorating WW1, this project is probably unique, both in commissioning a choral piece of this scale, and in the extraordinary engagement of the local community. Enabled by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, over 100 people from the village and surrounding area have been drawn in, from ages eight to eighty. In addition to over 70 singers from five local choirs and five readers, over 30 more have given their time planning, preparing and building – all the detailed logistics that underpin performance. New skills have been learned and people have achieved things they never dreamed they could do. 

Composer Phil Mountford said: 

"One of the objectives of the project was to write at an appropriate level of challenge for community choirs. Another was to create sections that could be reused individually. The pieces are relatively short and, with the inclusion of Kathy’s letters, create a new format which we have called a ‘narrative suite’." 

"Some of the pieces were written as though I was composing for an imaginary war film. Other melodies followed the creation of a single melodic phrase or a written line. Where a text already existed, I created the music to work around it. Often musical ideas developed while walking through my local Shropshire countryside. When composing music, one of the most important considerations is balance. Are the melodies accessible enough for a first listening? Is there sufficient interest for repeated hearings? Is the music too challenging or indeed too simple for the listener or choir? Does the music develop with good structure? But most importantly, am I being honest and honouring the subject matter?"

"This was an extremely humbling project, confronting human emotion and loss, with horrific scenes alongside the universal emotion of love. My immense gratitude goes to the community choirs involved for being so positive and receptive. I'm very proud of what they have achieved which allowed me further to increase the level of complexity once the choir realised what they were capable of."

Kathy Gee, poet said: 

"Our soldier represents a generation of grandfathers. He is not a real person but his story has been created from real stories, from contemporary journals and letters, from books and scholars and research. Our man’s story could be located anywhere. I hope that his experiences resonate with modern listeners, including those whose ancestors may have had a very different war."

You can hear samples of the music here: