The Merchant Taylors’ Schools’ ‘Concert of Remembrance and Hope’ took place last Sunday before a capacity audience in the splendid setting of Birmingham Symphony Hall. The date was a very special one indeed, marking as it did the centenary of the armistice which ended the First World War. Students from 10 Merchant Taylors’ Company schools across the country sent groups of performers: MTS, St Helen’s School, St Saviour’s and St Olave’s, MT Prep and St John’s School from the London area; King’s School, Macclesfield and MTS, Crosby from the North West of England; Wallingford School from Oxfordshire and Bourneville Junior School and Wolverhampton Grammar School from the West Midlands.
Thirty-nine singers and instrumentalists from MTS travelled to Birmingham by coach on the preceding Friday evening ready for an early start on Saturday when all participating schools converged on Wolverhampton Grammar School for an enjoyable but intensive day of rehearsals. The choir (numbering some 300 students and staff) was to sing Karl Jenkins’ ‘The Armed Man’ and Mozart’s sublime Requiem under the baton of Michael Seal, Associate Conductor of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
In addition, our Director of Music, Simon Couldridge, had composed a choral piece for the occasion: an evocative setting of Siegfried Sassoon’s poignant poem, ‘Everyone Sang’ which was accompanied by Robert Crowley on the organ and by Taylor’s Brass. The concert itself was a memorable experience for performers and audience alike. During the first half each school group performed separately and the music was interspersed with poems and readings.
It was particularly moving to hear excerpts from the letters of OMT Frederick Arnaud, killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, read by Harrison Robb and students from partner schools. During the interval the massed choirs gathered on stage to sing Mozart’s Requiem accompanied by Mrs Stubbs on the organ. Joshua Winyard and Eddie Woolley participated in the wreath-laying ceremony and thousands of poppy petals fell silently from the full height of Symphony Hall as trumpeters played ‘The Last Post’.