One hundred years ago on November 10 1917, the third battle of Ypres ended in a small Belgium village called Passchendaele and on Friday morning, November 10 2017 a unique new play commemorating the end of WW1, written by children from Thornhill Primary School, Heol Hir, Cardiff called Armistice Cantata will be premiered at Chapter Art Centre in Canton, Cardiff.
On the same morning pupils from Rhydypennau Primary School with older people from the near-bye Goldies session at Rhydypennau Library will perform a new medley of WW1 songs.
The original idea for Armistice Cantata came from West Country musician and charity founder Grenville Jones who lives in Bath.
Mr Jones started the Golden-Oldies charity back in 2007 with fun daytime singing sessions for older isolated people in sheltered community rooms. He took the first sessions himself and now, ten years on, there are almost 200 across Wales and England, with 50 leaders and many supportive volunteers. Thousands attend the one hour sessions.
Sir Cliff Richard became patron in 2012. He says;
“Golden-Oldies has made quite remarkable progress, brightening so many lives.”
Grenville is a respected UK choir leader but is always anxious to point out that Goldies, as it has become known, is NOT about choir singing but instead is based on the popular memory-evoking songs of the 60’s and onwards. The charity has won many wellbeing awards for its simple “songs and smiles” formula that gives people a reason to get out and make new friends.
“ I saw the joy and friendships at my choirs and wanted to try to grab that atmosphere of fun and take it to older people who lived lonely lives and had very little to look forward to,” he says.
Back in 2010 he started an intergenerational programme with his charity, encouraging schools to open their doors to older people in their communities. Hundreds have taken part and, in 2014 he introduced a project supported by Heritage Lottery based on the commemoration of the First World War.
“I believe it is so important for our young children to understand the sacrifice that was given then and, as a musician, to keep alive the popular tunes and words of 100 years ago,” he says.
Mr Jones also has personal reasons for his dedication to the memories of WW1 as his grandfather William Henry Jones lost his life, aged 24 in the early days of the Battle of the Somme.
Armistice Cantata was written by children at Thornhill Primary School Cardiff. Liz Berry is deputy head, she explains:
“Our school has really embraced the Goldies charity and we have seen the huge benefits that come when out older people visit school to meet and enjoy the WW1 projects and sing the Goldies songs.
“When Grenville approached us we were delighted to be asked and our brilliant Year 4 and 5 children, led by Thornhills inspired music teacher Claire Holcombe have written the song words which are adapted to melodies of 100 years ago. I cannot emphasise enough how proud we are of them all and we are nervously looking forward to performing the 30 minute play of words and music at Chapter Arts in Cardiff on Friday morning November 10th for the first time in front of an invited audience.”
The Thornhill pupils worked on the project for 6 months and research included a visit to the Glamorgan Archives Museum to see WW1 memorabilia and letters and learn more about the men from South Wales who went to war.
There are 7 songs and groups of children composed the lyrics for each and, together with older people who attend near bye Goldies singing sessions, they then worked on the narration script and the images that form the backdrop to the 30 minute production.
Professional guidance also came from Goldies Cymru supporters Emyr Wynne Jones and Alwyn Humphreys whose expertise and musicianship then helped to create the final score and script.
Armistice Cantata will be offered to all UK primary schools in English and Welsh from January through the new Goldies WW1 website which also launches of November 10.
This website will also feature masses of other ideas for primary schools as well as information on WW1 commemorations, song medleys, project guidance notes and much more.
“We hope that hundreds of schools and older people will take part in the weeks and months leading up to November 2018 and the Armistice commemoration,” said Grenville Jones.
The WW1 programme is supported by Heritage Lottery Fund Wales, The Santander Foundation and the Moondance Foundation, Cardiff.
Here is a short clip from their rehearsal. Download Attachment