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Music and Entertainment


Kate Wills
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Dave and Simon,

Many thanks for the information from the war diaries. Very useful, as is the information on the artistes. Lena recruited over 600, but mentioned few by name.

When was the last time you saw an elecutionist on the bill?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Kate

I was just trawling through my book “War Letters of General Monash” looking for mention of a particular person (sadly doesn’t have an index) – when I came across the following, and immediately thought of you.

From a letter to his wife dated France, 11 January 1917:

“In the Ecole Professionelle in Armentieres, or so much of it as is left after the aeroplane bomb had hit it a few months ago, I run a ‘Grand cinema show and pierrot entertainment’, charging the lads half a franc admission. They appreciate it all the more if they are compelled to pay – wouldn’t trouble to come if it were free. The hall, once an engineering lecture theatre, holds five hundred. The whole thing is under the management of [Frank] Beaurepaire [the world champion swimmer] who is my head Y.M.C.A. representative…..

The pierrots (eight of them) all have splendid voices, and all turn out in white pierrot gear, three of them as fair damsels, all the clothes made by our regimental tailors, and they give a show every bit as good as those at St Kilda. Each of my thirteen bands furnishes the orchestra each evening in rotation. General Godley and I make a point of going to this show about once a week. It bucks the men up a lot after six days’ tour in the trenches. Many of the songs and jokes are topical, very personal and very funny, take too long to tell you, some directed against Godley and me and the brigadiers, but they are in very good taste, and quite respectful, and the men simply roar with delight.” [p.130-1]

From a letter to his wife dated Menton, 15 March, 1918:

“I have occasionally mentioned my pierrot troupes. We have now brought them to a high state of excellence, and now have four troupes – one divisional one, and one for each infantry brigade. I have put in charge a thoroughly capable officer, with nothing else to do except organize and manage these entertainments, which are of incalculable value to the troops. The principal company now has a full string orchestra of twenty-four performers under a highly capable conductor, Lance-Corporal Pierce, who can perform even Wagner very creditably. The company is now on a very high plane of merit. I hope you do not visualize a mere amateur show like at old-time camp-fire concerts. My troupes are real artists, and their performances are a high-class musical treat, staging operatic scenes, and putting on their numbers with full orchestral accompaniment and all the adjuncts of good scenery, lighting, and appropriate costumes. This divisional troupe includes two ‘ladies’, Lance-Corporal Watsford and Private Harvey, and I recently sent them to London to get a complete new outfit of wigs, gloves, shoes, hosiery, frocks, jewellery, etc., and the result is most startling. Both have beautiful clear soprano voices, and in the concerted numbers the combined effect of voice, bearing, and gesture is all that could be desired.” [p.163-4]

General Sir John Monash was, in March 1918, still commanding the 3rd Division, AIF.

[“War Letters of General Monash”, edited by Tony MacDougall 2002]

Cheers, Frev

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Frev,

Thankyou very much indeed. This is a valuable contribution to my research.

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  • 1 month later...
There are a couple of autobiogs, Myself a Player & Modern Troubadors, but both can be really difficult (and potentially very expensive) to find.

Someone also wrote a postgrad thesis about here, but the details don't spring to mind.

Martin

I hope this can resolve the problem of at least one of the books being both difficult and expensive to find?

Modern troubadours, a record of the concerts at the front (1922)

Available for free download at the gold mine that is The Internet Archive.

Cheers,

Nigel

;)

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Are old '78' records of any interest. Have a couple of John McCormack 'Come back to Erin' and Sydney MacEwan 'Jeannie with the light brown hair'

Also have about a 100 more,of various artists Some circa great war period.

All original,some not in great condition.

If anyone wants them.....

Mike

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was wonderin if these are of any interest,were given to my husband by his brother who found them clearering out old workshops

img007.jpg

img008.jpg

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Dear Triciat,

Thankyou for posting these, which are a nice size.

They are WW2 or just post WW2-vintage. Lili Marlen was a German popular song which also found favour with the Allies. 'It's a V Schickelgruber' is a neat take on Churchill's famous two-fingered salute.

Skipman - Sounds interesting, not that I have a 78 player, but do you have anyting with Great war connections?

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Dear Kate,

You've broadened your criteria but I'm still not sure if what I'm doing is of interest. I have composed music for three John McCrae poems; In Flanders Fields, The Anxious Dead and Isandlwana. I plan to do more. I have recorded In Flanders Fields but not the other two yet, although I'm planning to. Is this of interest at all? The arrangements are traditional and do not have a particularly modern sound. They would be at home during WWI.

Bonfire/Susan

to hear a clip of In Flanders Fields please see my website:

www.inflandersfields.ca

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Hi Kate.Don't have any 78's like The long long trail,or Keep the home fire's burning.Have a few John McKormack,that may be ww1 era.Come back to Erin,Lilies of Lorraine,A rose for every heart.Love's old sweet song.

There are loads of them and will have a better look.If you want any of these let me know.If i get any more in future,(probably will) will let you know.These are not in perfect condition,but playable.

Mike.

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Kate

Please let me know if I have already told you abaout a find in "The Story of the Salonika Army" by G. Ward Price, published rather prematurely (mine is 2nd edition 1918) and bringing the story only down to 1917.

Parts of pages 263/4 relate the amusements/theatricals put on by the troops in the absence of any "London touring companies or touring cinema-shows".

If you have not had this already I will copy it for you.

Daggers

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  • 5 weeks later...
2co3cef.jpg Kate is this of any interest.Inside are 4/5 pages with music of these songs (just bits of the songs) .If you want will post the pages,or scan and email.Not sure what year this was published but it cost 6 old pence. Cheers Mike
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Kate is this of any interest.Inside are 4/5 pages with music of these songs (just bits of the songs) .If you want will post the pages,or scan and email.Not sure what year this was published but it cost 6 old pence. Cheers Mike

If you post the pages, other people like me who are interested can also see them! ;)

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Ok Andrew,this is page 1,let me know if you want more will post tomorrow night when have more time.Mike

Excellent, thanks for that, look forward to seeing the rest. :)

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  • 1 month later...

Here in the 1916 Canadian War diaries for Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Buxton, Derbyshire, there is mention of a concert party, plus a special engagement where soldiers were taken October 26th to see the silent film "Birth of a Nation" at the Buxton Opera House.

Diary entry re: attending Birth of a Nation (silent film)

The above entry also mentions a Halloween party held October 31st with music provided by the "hospital quartette".

There are also notes on other entertainment provided for the soldiers as noted in the complete war diaries for this hospital.

War Diaries 1916, Buxton Special Red Cross Hospital

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  • 3 months later...

Kate - I read this this morning & immediately thought of you - just a little snippet that may not be of much help - but you never know!

The book is the diary of an Australian nurse - Sister Elsie Tranter (AANS). She was stationed at the time at the No. 1 Gen Hosp at Etretat, France, and part of her entry for 24/1/1918 reads:

"This evening we went to a concert in the American YMCA hut given by the Lena Ashwell Concert Company. A Canadian sister went with us from the Villa Orphee and just as we were entering the hall she said, 'If they don't rag a verse tonight about the maple leaf and the kangaroo, I won't come to anymore of their shows.' They didn't give us the maple leaf ditty but someone sang 'The Little Aborigine' so we let that pass muster in place of a kangaroo."

Cheers, Frev

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  • 4 months later...

the one-armed pianists (I have identified seven so far) who may have employed them.

Kate,

I found a CD today which included George Butterworth's 'Banks of Green Willow', and found myself thinking back to a TV programme some years ago about a left-handed pianist, Douglas Fox, who had 3 improvisations written for him by Frank Bridge just after the War. I have just found some some samples on a classical archive and will look out for a recording. The emotion infused by the added dimension of war injury has an impact I find difficult to express. My late brother was a brilliant pianist too, so I have to ration my input of piano pieces. or falling apart takes place!

I was not aware that Frank Bridge had written his Piano Sonata[1921-24] partly as a memorial to his friend Ernest Farrar, killed at Epehy Ronssoy in 1918. I read that Ernest was educated at Leeds Grammar School, and I purchased the Butterworth CD in Headingley, a furlong or so away. Small World [War One], ain't it?

Phil.

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Fox was, according to report, a brilliant pianist with just one arm, and achieved amazing things despite his disabilty. Someone told me he had a pet spider called Alfie.

Bridge's musical expression becomes very dark post-war.

Sorry about not replying to recent posts on this thread. The intention was there, and then it slipped out of sight. Many thanks for the contributions. Keep 'em coming.

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Kate,

Thanks for your thoughts.

Sargeant Harry Sargeant became much less dark, in fact very light post-war, but this song MUST have had its roots back in the men's sing-songs of the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZXDwOa696g

Phil.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Kate

I'm still here, though I've long since lost my original thread about my grandfather's part in concert parties! (How do you find previous posts anyway? Must be some record, once the usual criteria that come up in Search have gone?...)

Anyway, 2 seconds in and I'm rambling...

Another Forum member has now pointed me in another direction. There was a special 'concert' held in a Salle M. Henaux, down as Rinxent-Marquise , at 10 on Christmas morning 1918. One of the soloists was M.Williams of 326 company. The company would tally with info I've already been given by Dave, so I have every reason to suspect that this was my Grandfather. The concert was a 'gymanfa ganu' - think Songs of Praise. There was apparently hymn singing, a reading-recitation, a soloist and a group of three singers. The programme is entirely in Welsh. So far I have been sent a copy of a copy from a regional newspaper, and I'm itching to know what is inside the cover!!!! All the men involved came from various battalions, with ranks and company numbers, apart from one gentleman from the YMCA.

Once again, I'm having problems attaching the adobe copy, but I'll send you one by e-mail shortly.

Brenda.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Fox was, according to report, a brilliant pianist with just one arm, and achieved amazing things despite his disabilty. Someone told me he had a pet spider called Alfie.

Bridge's musical expression becomes very dark post-war.

Sorry about not replying to recent posts on this thread. The intention was there, and then it slipped out of sight. Many thanks for the contributions. Keep 'em coming.

Hello Kate.

First of all can I join the Lena Ashwell fan club too please - any women who made a name for herself in our history gets my vote?

I was in Newcastle's library yesterday and was looking through a local newspaper for 1918 -1919. There is a photograph and small heading of a Frenchmen who had one arm and was employed at playing the piano . I didn't make note of it but can do so if anyone is interested.

I found a few photographs of concert performers that you may be interested in Kate.

14/11/1918

'The Joy Bells Concert Party of the NF Batallion in France commanded by Lieut Colonol Metheun DSO'

It is a photgraph of the performers. Unfortunately the newspaper is now covered in a protected layer and it is very difficult to make it out. The NF will, I imagine, be the Northumberland Fusilliers.

3/12/1918

'The merry and the bright WAAC members of a Canadian Concert Party never loose an opportunity for a frolic'. Again there is a photograph but it too is dullened by the protective covering.

16/12/1918

'The party of peirrots have provided lots of entertainmant for the boys at the Front'. The Second Lieutenant is playing the piano and also there is mention of Sapper JW Simpson of Saltwell Road Gateshead. These look more like dancers I think.

And lastly for the minute.

18/12/1918

There is a photograph of an assembled brass band and the caption tells that it is of the 7th Batallion Band of the Durham Light Infantry who went to Flanders.

Yours Ashleigh.

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