To mark the centenary of the Armistice that ended World War I, we present ‘Sequence: In Parenthesis’.
About the project
‘Sequence: In Parenthesis’ is a composition by Owain Park, inspired by David Jones’s epic poem, ‘In Parenthesis’, which narrates the experiences of Private John Ball during World War I.
Based on Jones’s own experience as an infantryman, events include the assault on Mametz Wood during the Battle of the Somme.
Earlier this year, we travelled to Mametz Wood with a soldier’s uniform borrowed from the National Theatre to video on-location.
‘Sequence: In Parenthesis’ uses many of the melodies found in David Jones’s work, ‘In Parenthesis’, in conjunction with a narrator who quotes short passages – sometimes related, but often distanced from the choral parts. The original vision for the piece was a dream-like fantasia, that uses melodies quoted in David Jones’s work: English and Welsh hymn tunes and village hall songs are intermingled with trench songs – from both sides of the conflict.
The piece was premiered by Opus Anglicanum, with Zeb Soanes narrating.
Exploring the events of ‘In Parenthesis’ at Mametz Wood and across the Somme with Owain and Sam was fascinating and deeply moving. I feel that a project such as this can only make a light impression on a work as complex as ‘In Parenthesis’, and indeed in our music, the journey of the protagonist, Private Ball, is only a transparency through which we can see darkly, individual experiences of the Great War.
Songs frequently crop up in David Jones’ writing. In Owain’s composition, these melodies are brought in and out of focus, conveying a spectrum of meanings that are unique to each listener. We have found that the resulting effect has been similarly profound wherever we have performed in concerts around the UK and abroad.
My experience, of both listening to and performing the piece, is that it transcends many of the dichotomies of the Great War and our project intends to reflect this: The historical perspective that is clearest to us as young British singers in 2018, especially given the events currently unfolding around us, is one of reconciliation, cooperation and a sense that the bonds that hold us together are far stronger than the forces that seek to pull us apart.
As we commemorate the centenary of the November Armistice, we remember the lives and sacrifices of a whole generation from all corners of the world, and we rededicate ourselves to working towards a time where we will be able to say with confidence: Never Again.
Revd Jim Craig – Chaplain of Guy’s Chapel, King’s College London
The National Theatre – Costume Hire Department
Jamie Wright – Loan of camera equipment
Mair Park – Design of titles
Hafren Park – Production Assistant
The Friends and Patrons of The Gesualdo Six, especially: Margaret Clark, Jean Hackett, Helen Hudson, Lynn James, Jean & Philip King, George Lewis, Chris Lovell, Jan Montague, John Pastor, John Rowlands-Pritchard, Susan Vinther & Karen Constable.
Music featured in the work
Listed by order of appearance:
– Goodbye, Dolly Gray
– Bring me my harp/David of the white rock (Dafydd y Garreg Wen)
– Oh dear! What can the matter be?
– Sosban Fach
– Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen
– Casey Jones
– Old soldiers never die
– The Spaniard that blighted my life (If I catch Alphonso Spagoni, the Toreador)
– Oh I do like a s’nice s’mince ‘spie!
– Onward, Christian Soldiers
– I want to go home
– Jesu, lover of my soul
– We’re here because we’re here
Please contact us if you would like to know more about the project.