However many big-budget war films come and go, real footage of frontline combat is still shocking. How much more powerful would such images have been 95 years ago, when The Battle of the Somme (1916) was released, and watched by 50% of the British population? JB MacDowell and Geoffrey Malins’s documentary was intended to boost morale, but its scenes of wounded and dead soldiers, not to mention the contentious “over-the-top” sequence, make it a more complicated, thought-provoking and mournful piece of work. One of the “over-the-top” scenes was staged, but so much else is horribly real here – and the film was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2005.
The Battle of the Somme‘s footage may be familiar to you as it has been mined for many a first world war documentary, but it is an entirely different experience to watch it all, in one sitting. This upcoming short UK tour offers a very special opportunity to do just that. Composer Laura Rossi’s orchestral score for the film will be performed at four special screenings of The Battle of the Somme in 2011 and 2012, by four different ensembles:
- 12 November 2011: Leicester Symphony Orchestra, De Montfort Hall, Leicester
- 20 November 2011: Wessex Concert Orchestra, The Corn Exchange, Devizes, Wiltshire
- 25 February 2012: Philharmonia Britannica, St John’s Church, Waterloo, London
- 10 March 2012: Ealing Symphony Orchestra, Venue TBC, Ealing, London
For more details, and to listen to clips of the score, visit Laura Rossi’s website. To find out more about the film, read this post from The Bioscope. Also, the Times reviewed the premiere of the score, when it was performed in the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the film in 2006. The Battle of the Somme is also available on a DVD produced by the Imperial War Museum, with two scores, both Rossi’s and a recreation of a likely contemporary soundtrack, by Stephen Horne, based on cue sheets.
If you want to contribute to the the tour, you can do so here, on the crowdfunding website, We Did This.
Hat-tip to the Bioscope for alerting me to this one.