Music of our Time

Artists, poets and composers responded to the First and Second World Wars in ways not seen before. Music of our Time (MOOT) brings together local musicians with professional performers for contemporary classical music event series such as Sounds of War – Instruments of Peace 1914-2014 during the Brighton Fringe Festival 2014. The concerts will commemorate the First World War centenary and the 70th anniversary of D-Day by celebrating the heritage and legacy of music by women composers, soldier- and pacifist-composers through a number of music, literature, film and educational events.

MOOT received a grant from our Brighton & Hove Arts Fund and our Margaret Greenhough Fund to support a number of event strands. Many of the themes explored in the concerts are around positive responses to war, as well as commemorating lives lost, says Artistic Director, Norman Jacobs, pictured here at St Nicholas Church in Brighton where some of the concerts will be performed. “We have a performance by left-hand pianist Nicholas McCarthy, who played at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics 2012.  Nicholas will be playing Three Improvisations for the Left Hand, by Brighton-born composer Frank Bridge, born in 1879 on North Road who was a pacifist,” says Norman. Bridge wrote the piece originally for Douglas Fox, a soldier-musician who had lost his right arm in World War One. “Like Paul Wittgenstein, a pianist who was similarly disabled during WW1 and went on to commission the likes of Ravel, Prokofiev and Benjamin Britten to write left-hand piano music for him, Fox was ‘re-enabled’ by his experiences and the loss of his arm,” he says.

Another concert will see the Post War Orchestra who take the biblical notion of ‘swords to ploughshares’ (the idea that military weapons can be turned to peaceful purpose) quite literally by playing instruments made from decommissioned weapons. A musket becomes a woodwind instrument and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher becomes a Theremin. Other events include an open event in partnership with local charities Sing for Better Health and Action on Hearing Loss, during Deaf Awareness Week in May, and a new play, A Walk Through the End of Time, which features a work composed in a German prisoner-of-war camp. MOOT will also commission a Sussex composer to compose music for the Heath Quartet’s concert, A Letter from Private Joe, named after the soldier whose letter from the Front to his family is sung by his great-nephew baritone Nigel Cliffe.

“We hope that the concerts will encourage the local community to consider issues surrounding both World Wars and introduce them to some new pieces, as well as some more well-known ones, focusing on the times in which the music was conceived, to better understand people’s memories and experiences from the wars.”