Art, poetry and music in World War I was the topic of the latest talk given by Andrew Bamji at East Street Museum on December 9. We were treated to some haunting music – Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, which was dedicated to four of Britten’s friends killed in the war. The work was not meant to be pro-British nor a glorification of British soldiers, but a public statement of Britten’s anti-war convictions. It was a denunciation of the wickedness of war, not of other men. The fact that Britten wrote the piece for three specific soloists – a German baritone (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau), a Russian soprano (Galina Vishnevskaya), and a British tenor (Peter Pears) – demonstrated, Bamji said, that he had more than the losses of his own country in mind. (Bamji was a choirboy in the recording we heard.)
The well researched talk included readings of a variety of war poems illustrated with paintings by war artists, including those of Paul Nash, who has a Blue Plaque on East Street, and also some by soldiers who became artists. The talk ended on a lighter note with music: Keep the Home Fires Burning, It’s a long Way to Tipperary plus Land of Hope and Glory. The latter has a local connection – the words are by Arthur Christopher Benson, the brother of EF Benson of Lamb House and author of the novels about Mapp and Lucia.
The next museum talk will be in February: “My Grandfather and Rye’s Mosaic Ware” by Viv Challens. New members and guests are always welcome to the talks. See the museum website for details.
Photo: from Wikipedia