Premiere of new choral work by Bob Chilcott performed as part of a ‘Pity of War’ concert in Shropshire

A world premiere of a new choral work by internationally renowned composer Bob Chilcott formed part of a ‘Pity of War’ concert in Shropshire at the weekend – marking the 100th anniversary of the death of First World War Poet Wilfred Owen.

Internationally renowned composer Bob Chilcott Photo: Annabel Moeller
Internationally renowned composer Bob Chilcott Photo: Annabel Moeller

Owen was killed in action at Sambre-Oise Canal, Ors, Northern France, on November 4, just one week before the armistice was declared, ending the First World War. His mother learned of his death as the bells were ringing out in Shrewsbury to signal the end of the conflict.

Founder of Shrewsbury Bookfest Caroline Thewles commissioned Bob to set Owen’s poem ‘Futility’ to music – the resulting work ‘Move Him into the Sun’ enjoyed its world premiere at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury last night (Sunday 4), featuring tenor soloist Dafydd Wyn Jones and massed choirs from across Shropshire.

Funding was obtained from The Arts Council, local charitable trusts, several local businesses, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Shropshire and the Wilfred Owen Association.

Bob said setting Owen’s poignant words to music was a ‘huge responsibility’.

“There are lots of super precedents, including Britten’s,” he said. “Owen’s poetry is so complete that sometimes – you feel you aren’t adding more. Its’ so loaded and so emotive – I had to think very carefully about that.”

Bob’s new work, for tenor soloist, and adult and youth choirs, is named after the first line of Owen’s World War One poem Futility – a short poem of only two stanzas, which begins with an instruction ‘Move him into the sun’.

“Owen is writing about the dying soldier,” Bob explains. ‘It’s an instruction to his fellow men to move him into the sun, so that it might bring him back to life. It’s a powerful image.”

The 25-minute work is written in five movements, Song of Songs, Spring Offensive, Apologia pro Poemate Meo, Futility, and Winter Song, and balances reverence and solemnity with hopefulness and optimism.

“I needed to feel for the piece that it needed an image beyond just the futility of the war,” he explained. “Britten’s setting in the War Requiem was so wonderful, but at the same time, he really does find those depths of the despair – that was something I tried to lighten. There’s so much in Owen’s poetry that alludes to friendship and also to the surrounding countryside where he lived. I have used those kinds of references quite strongly. The overriding one is the sun – the image of the sun as a positive view of something that lives.”

Bob says he was struck by how young Wilfred was when he was writing (just 25): “This is the work of someone with huge energy, at the point of discovering his place in the world – clearly that was completely destroyed by him going to war. To have to go away and fight is beyond belief. The fact that he could be so eloquent about it is incredible.”

Bob’s own father fought in World War Two with the Royal Engineers and, like Owen, may well have suffered from PTSD, or ‘shell shock’ as it used to be known: “My father was living in the desert aged 19 in a hole in the sand,” Bob said. “He absolutely hated it. He died young (aged 49) probably of Post Traumatic Stress.

“There is a general sense that his generation was destroyed by the war. They came out of the army and had to get on with it – he didn’t go to university. He was a building inspector. Nowadays we have no concept of that reality. I think my father was a very unhappy man.”

“I want people to be reminded what a great poet Owen is. And also that we should be reminded of his youth and his joy. You have to feel his youth and his energy and relate that to how we feel about life today and about the way we relate to others.”

On November 11 the BBC Singers, conducted by Sofi Jeannin, give the London première at Milton Court Concert Hall. In May 2019 the NFM Choir (Wroclaw), conducted by Agnieszka Frankow-Żelazny, will record it with Bob for release on Signum.

Move Him into the Sun is based on poems by Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918), with music by Bob Chilcott (b.1955). It is published on November 8, 2018 by Oxford University Press.

Article by Katy Rink, My Shrewsbury

Shropshire Live
Shropshire Live has been providing Shropshire with independent news and entertainment since 2009. Send us your news to or call 01743 818 095. For advertising information call Fiona on 01743 816 817.

Featured Articles

Easter Featured Article

Out and About in Shropshire Easter 2019

It is busy time across Shropshire this Easter with plenty of events and activities across the county. Take a look at some of the events near you.

Make Mum’s Day with a little helping hand from Shrewsbury Shopping

This Mother’s Day, Shrewsbury Shopping are showing their appreciation for Shropshire Mums, with lots of free fun and a little free gift in the approach to Mother’s Day.
- Advertisement -

Man charged following Shrewsbury town centre stabbing

A man has been charged after another man was stabbed in Shrewsbury town centre yesterday morning.

Police investigate racist comments directed towards Leyton Orient player at Telford match

Police are investigating racist comments directed to towards a Leyton Orient player at the AFC Telford Utd v Leyton Orient football match on Saturday.

Man stabbed in Shrewsbury town centre

Police are looking for two men after a man was stabbed in Shrewsbury town centre this morning.

Former Shrewsbury Town loanee wanted by Manchester United

Former Shrewsbury Town loanee Ben Godfrey is being tracked by Manchester United as the club eye a summer bid.

Match Report: Shrewsbury Town 0 – 2 Portsmouth

Shrewsbury Town were unable to build on last week’s victory as they slipped to defeat against promotion hopefuls Portsmouth.

Match Preview: Shrewsbury Town v Portsmouth

Shrewsbury Town has a defensive crisis on their hands as they prepare to face promotion contenders Portsmouth.
- Advertisement -
Kelly Hodgetts, Alex Garmston, Jordan Holmes, Allan Biggs, Lee Duffy, Kieran Smith, Indre Meskauskaite, Sarah Goddard, Deryn Ellis-Thomas, Michael Wright and Oswestry 10K and Midnight Ride Organiser Alan Lewis. Front Left to Right: Jo White, Ian Watman, Jane Pritchard, Dave Jennings, Lewis Bainbridge, Ady Jennings, Laura Opechowska and Kate Thomas from Macmillan Cancer Support

Aico rises to series of challenges in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support

Staff from Oswestry based Aico, have signed up to multiple fundraising challenges and are organising a series of events to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Staff at The Wrekin Housing Trust offices in Telford

The Wrekin Housing Trust celebrates 20 years

The Wrekin Housing Trust celebrated its twentieth birthday on Monday.
Marina Ibrahim, founder of Bizz Buzz

Ludlow based female entrepreneur is finalist in prestigious business awards

A Ludlow based female entrepreneur has been named as one of the finalists in the Women Who… Awards.
Mark Allsop, Managing Director of Yarrington and Andrew Cross, Chairman of Shropshire Horticultural Society

New app launched for Shrewsbury Flower Show

A new app is to make it easier for visitors to plan and enjoy their day at this year's Shrewsbury Flower Show.
Maggie Kennerley, a Transformation Midwife from Shropshire, who is taking part in the Velo Birmingham & Midlands to raise money for Cure Leukaemia

Baschurch Rollers cycling for Cure Leukaemia at Velo

A health professional from Shropshire will be marking International Nurses Day by cycling 100 miles for Cure Leukaemia.
Art Historian, Sarah Gathercole, Qube Arts Officer, Charlotte Jackson, Volunteer, Jan Hedger and Qube Arts Development Officer, Vanessa Baldry

Volunteer’s exhibition honours Oswestry’s Homefront Heroines

A multimedia exhibition celebrating the role of local women during the First World War opens on March 14 at Qube Gallery in Oswestry.
- Advertisement -
The company of all local performers have been working hard in rehearsals at their Shrewsbury studio to bring the music and lyrics to life

Local cast set to bring classical family musical to Theatre Severn

Award winning local musical theatre company Get Your Wigle On have held successful auditions for their upcoming musical production of The Sound of Music.
Band members Alex Caden, Sam Beavan, Ben Jones and Robert Whitgreave of Without Warning are the 100th act to sign up to The Big Busk

100th act signs up for The Big Busk

An incredible 100 acts have now signed up for Shrewsbury’s free street music festival The Big Busk.
Telford’s popular Balloon Fiesta returns on 11 & 12 May

Telford Balloon Fiesta to return in May

Telford’s popular Balloon Fiesta returns to Telford Town Park in May after the roaring success of last year.
Ceinwen, Alex and Izzy get creative with cakes in preparation for the Hope House and Ty Gobaith Eat Cake Week 2019

Cake lovers to help raise money for Hope House during Eat Cake Week

Cake lovers across Shropshire will be decorating, baking and icing next month as part of the Hope House and Ty Gobaith Eat Cake Week.

Shrewsbury in top spot for food hygiene ratings in the West Midlands

Shrewsbury has come top for food hygiene ratings in the West Midlands, according to a new report.

Special Easter events at Shrewsbury’s award-winning Market Hall

Events at Shrewsbury’s award-winning Market Hall kick off on Saturday, April 6 when its doors open for the first of its 2019 line-up of popular late night events.

Featured Articles

- Advertisment -


broken clouds
11.9 ° C
13.9 °
9.4 °
58 %
75 %
12 °
14 °
15 °
15 °
10 °
- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -

Latest Articles

- Advertisment -