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Ipswich Choral Society to perform a new work at Snape

PUBLISHED: 14:15 06 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:15 06 March 2019

Composer Tom Randle rehearses his new work, The Affirming Flame, with Ipswich Choral Society. Picture: IPSWICH CHORAL SOCIETY

Composer Tom Randle rehearses his new work, The Affirming Flame, with Ipswich Choral Society. Picture: IPSWICH CHORAL SOCIETY

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Ipswich Choral Society's spring concert will feature Mozart's Requiem and a brand new work by the acclaimed tenor and composer Tom Randle.

Tom Randle and Ipswich Choral Society musical director Robin Walker (right) discuss the score. Picture: IPSWICH CHORAL SOCIETYTom Randle and Ipswich Choral Society musical director Robin Walker (right) discuss the score. Picture: IPSWICH CHORAL SOCIETY

A brand new choral work will be premiered in Suffolk, in April.

Ipswich Choral Society (ICS) is currently in rehearsals for The Affirming Flame, written by internationally renowned tenor and composer Tom Randle.

His new work will be part of a programme performed at Snape Concert Hall that also includes the Mozart Requiem.

ICS is one of the oldest established choirs in the country - it celebrates its 195th anniversary this year - but it is also one of our most innovative choirs, having been a part of a number of collaborations with other local artists - painters, poets, photographers and dancers.

Last year's Ipswich Remembers concert inspired composer Tom Randle to write his new work. Picture: MATT CLARKELast year's Ipswich Remembers concert inspired composer Tom Randle to write his new work. Picture: MATT CLARKE

Last year’s Ipswich Remembers, marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, was performed with elements of dance and poetry. The tenor soloist for the concert was Tom Randle, who was much taken with one of the poems, The Parcel, written by Pam Job of Suffolk Poetry Society.

Tom has written a new choral piece The Affirming Flame which features this poem, as well as poems from war poets and on the theme of war. Fenella Andrews, of Ipswich Choral Society, says: “Tom clearly liked singing with us at Ipswich Remembers, and he was incredibly moved by the whole performance.

“He was keen for ICS to perform his new work as we had inspired him to write it, so not only will the choir’s programme include the Mozart Requiem, it will also feature the world premiere of Tom Randle’s The Affirming Flame.”

“I think Robin (Walker, ICS musical director) couldn’t believe it when Tom announced he’d written us a piece for the Snape concert. (Tom had already been asked to sing in the concert and his wife, Gillian, is the soprano soloist).

Last year's Ipswich Remembers concert brought song and dance together in a concert marking the end of the First World War. Picture: MATT CLARKELast year's Ipswich Remembers concert brought song and dance together in a concert marking the end of the First World War. Picture: MATT CLARKE

Fenella says: “It is going to be challenging and quite exciting at the same time. We’re really pleased that one of the Suffolk poets has a poem included too.”

Tom Randle has an extensive repertoire of operatic roles and also does a great deal of concert work. He has sung with English National Opera and the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and has worked across Europe and America.

As a composer, his opera A Telephone Call premiered in 2015. In 2017, his new work, Los Nacimientos, a dance and theatre piece, premiered at the Buxton International Festival. His new opera Love me to Death was premiered in 2018.

Tom Randle says: “When I was contacted by Robin Walker about performing as tenor soloist for the upcoming Mozart Requiem with the Ipswich Choral Society at Snape, I was happy to accept. I was already aware of their dedication and quality, and of course, the Snape Maltings concert hall is a wonderful place to make music.

Composer and tenor Tom Randle. Picture: CLARE PARKComposer and tenor Tom Randle. Picture: CLARE PARK

“As a composer, I also saw this as an opportunity to perhaps create something for the programme. It’s always a bit tricky to programme a first half when doing the Mozart Requiem as that piece, although monumental in scope, only lasts about 35 minutes.

“For our concert on April 6, Robin also planned to perform Mozart’s Laudate Dominum and Ave Verum Corpus, two works that are often done in conjunction with the Requiem. However, he still needed another twenty minutes of music for the first half.

“Interestingly, we both came up with the idea of a new work independently of each other. I was in Japan performing in a tour of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony when Robin and I spoke about the possibility of me composing a work for the choir, and over the next few weeks we worked out the details.

“Since I was already familiar with the choir, I was keen to create a work that would bring out their best qualities, and The Affirming Flame does exactly that. The poetry came from a wonderful collection entitled ‘101 Poems Against War’, which contains various texts ranging from the 4th century to the present day.

Poet Pam Job. Picture: Pamela JobPoet Pam Job. Picture: Pamela Job

“I was keen to avoid anything that was deliberately ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ the concept of war, but rather to select verses that simply looked at the phenomenon of warfare, its effect on those that participate and are affected by it.

“I also wanted to set the excellent work The Parcel by Pam Job, which I encountered during the Ipswich Remembers evening, last March, for the same reasons.

“The idea is not to coerce anyone into adopting a particular attitude, nor to have to defend a viewpoint, but rather to simply listen, experience and, hopefully gain insight and empathy into the (sadly) ongoing tragedy that is our long and bloody history of armed conflict.”

The five poems in the piece are When You See Millions by Charles Hamilton Sorley who was killed in action during the Battle of Loos in October 1915, aged 20; Suicide in the Trenches by Siegfried Sassoon; Grass by the three-time Pulitzer Prize winning American poet Carl Sandburg; Night In Al-Hamra by Saadi Youssef and The Parcel.

Pamela, who has twice won the Crabbe Memorial Prize, lives in Wivenhoe, Essex. Her poem was inspired by author Vera Brittain’s account of her mother’s receipt of her dead son’s uniform, and also by Pamela’s father, who fought on the Western Front at Arras.

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