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An emotional roller-coaster

Songs & Stories of the Great War 1914-1918, Sage Two, 11th November 2018

The mood in Sage Two, Sage Gateshead on 11th of the 11th 2018 was understandably sombre at the start of Songs and Stories of the Great War 1914-18, our tribute to the Armistice Centenary. Over 250 people (some of whom had come from as far afield as Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and Manchester) packed the intimate space of Sage Two which was bathed in a blood-red light and they must have wondered what course our Songs & Stories would take. Thanks to the efforts of our own Rob Barnes, who produced the show, they need not have worried. The whole event was pitched just right with the appropriate mix of light and shade. There was humour in the extracts from the Wipers Times and poetry of Cicely Fox Smith; nostalgia in the parlour song In An Old-Fashioned Town and in Roses of Picardy and trench song medley; and unutterable, gut-wrenching sadness in No Man's Land by Eric Bogle and Jessica Curry's Kiss the Bairns from her Durham Hymns. The poem The Pensioner by 'Woodbine Willie' and Wilfred Owen's famous Dulce et Decorum Est were particularly poignant.

The pupils of Hotspur Primary School, conducted by their Headteacher, Miles Wallis-Clarke, gave a delightful rendition of Remember by Emily Barden which seemed to offer hope that the sacrifices made by those who gave their lives in the Great War would never be forgotten. The atmosphere in the Hall was so warm and, coupled with the occasional opportunities for audience participation, it helped to make the whole event a truly communal act of remembrance. I suspect it will stay with all those who were there for a rather long time.

Huge thanks to the team at the Sage Gateshead for enabling us to deliver such a professionally produced show and for our guest conductor for the event, Glenn Davis. Special mention should also be made of the very talented Bella Cram, Rob Barnes' grand-daughter, who co-narrated the story. A star is born!

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