Whilst the First World War Centenary theme of Friday night’s opening concert of the BBC Proms season isn’t in doubt, you may look in vain for any explicit acknowledgement of the Salonika connection. So you read it here first!
The concert, which starts at 20:15 on Friday 13 July at the Royal Albert Hall, is billed as:
An all-British season launch, featuring two major figures who composed responses to the First World War.
Holst’s much-loved The Planets (premiered in 1918) and Vaughan Williams’s choral masterpiece Toward the Unknown Region …
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) served as a private with 2/4th London Field Ambulance which went to Macedonia with 60th Division in late 1916. In 1917 he left to take a commission in the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving in France in 1918. To learn more about Vaughan Williams and his music, listen to this week’s ‘Composer of the Week’ on BBC Radio 3.
Gustav Holst (1874-1934) also volunteered but was unfit for military service. Instead he got his chance to serve through the YMCA, who offered him the job of musical organiser for British forces in the near east, based in Salonika. His service in Salonika and Constantinople is being commemorated in an exhibition at the Holst Birthplace Museum in Cheltenham, which started yesterday and runs until 15 December 2018.
The works by Vaughan Williams and Holst on Friday night will be accompanied by a new work by Anna Meredith and 59 Productions.
Five Telegrams draws on communications sent by young soldiers in 1918 and features specially produced digital projections, creating a unique spectacle.
If you are unable to get to the Royal Albert Hall you can catch the Prom live on BBC2 and BBC Radio 3.