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The Silent Anzac

Footscray-Yarraville City Band
Conductor: Phillipa Edwards
Featuring: Jamie Lawson; William McInnes; Margaret Haggart, Danielle Matthews & Joe Stanley
Australia House
London
Sunday 11th November

The discovery of an old bass drum by Footscray-Yarraville City Band was the starting point for 'The Silent Anzac' musical journey – one that coupled to the exploits of submarine AE2 in the Dardenelles in the First World War eventually found its way back to the heart of the old British Empire for which so many Australians gave their lives.

The presentation made use of actors and singers, together with contemporary film and still shots, interspersed with poems and dialogue. 

Following Wilfred Owen’s 'The Pity of War', a single bell introduced Danielle Matthews to sing 'Amazing Grace' - joined by principal cornet Jamie Lawson dressed in Anzac uniform, and the band.

A First World War compilation led by Danielle and Margaret Haggart, included the delightfully cheeky 'Nursie! Nursie!' before Jamie Lawson presented a fine setting of 'The Lark on the Clear Air' - opening with a striking cadenza.

Emotive performance

Todd Smith's demanding commission, 'The Silent Anzac' gained an emotive performance that encapsulated both the turmoil of war, particularly in the more aggressive sections, as well as its moments of calm; including an interlude featuring the vibraphone and a sweeping melody over a side drum pulse.

The climax was heralded by the soprano with a sustained, ringing top C. 

An intense reading of 'Nimrod' was a fitting close to the first half.

Todd Smith's demanding commission, 'The Silent Anzac' gained an emotive performance that encapsulated both the turmoil of war, particularly in the more aggressive sections, as well as its moments of calm; including an interlude featuring the vibraphone and a sweeping melody over a side drum pulse. 

Powerful

The second focused on the personal effects of war, both at the front and at home; opening with a recording of Prime Minister Billy Hughes drumming up support for conscription - as powerful today as it was over a century ago.

A crisp rendition of Lithgow's march 'Victoria' preceded Joe Stanley, in the role of an Anzac soldier, singing, 'And the band played Waltzing Matilda', accompanied by the ensemble and the keyboard of Steve Semmier-Farr.

The vivid impact of war was conveyed with the disturbing 'Dies Irae' from Britten's 'War Requiem' and a powerful interpretation of the rock group Iron Maiden's 'Passchendaele'.

Margaret Haggart brought poignancy to 'Dido's Lament', before the presentation closed with 'Abide With Me'; starting with Danielle singing unaccompanied, and incorporating the band singing and Jamie Lawson playing ‘The Last Post’.

The quote from Turkish statesman Mustafa Ataturk, summed up the universal sense of tragic loss: The foreign dead had become their dead now that the guns had fallen silent.

It brought to a close a powerful, emotional experience.

Peter Bale

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