A concept-recital of songs have a link to the Great War in some form or other either by composer or poet from the period and whose life was likely shaped by the events of the time. They are intended to form a narrative and run uninterrupted in the form of a song cycle (rather than simply a recital). It begins with Ivor Gurney’s setting of “I Will Go With My Father A-Ploughing” and ends with the heart-breaking setting of Housman’s “Is My Team Ploughing?” by George Butterworth, himself killed in the trenches. The recital also includes a new original setting of McCrae’s “In Flanders’ Fields” composed by Robert-John Edwards.
It tells the tale of a ploughboy, born in, say, the late 1880s/early 1890s. We start with him as a child, watching his father plough the fields and learning the farmer’s trade. It then progresses through his youth where he becomes ambitious and then meets the girl of his dreams, woos her, marries her and has a child. He then joins the army. He joins in with some uplifting war songs before the horrors of the “Great” War begin to bite. He becomes home-sick, sees death up close and then, at his last hour, is desperate to go home. Originally performed in 2014 as a 14 song recital it was expanded to a 17 song recital for BirminghamFest in 2015 and then again for an Armistice Day recital to its current 20 song format, lasting approximately 1 hour. It is presented here by British bass-baritone, Robert-John Edwards, the creator of this programme, and his fellow Royal Birmingham Conservatoire post-graduate alumni, Swedish pianist, Sara Wilander.
Stamford-born Robert-John Edwards originally trained as a pianist and composer at Middlesex University and he later trained as a singer, attending the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Since winning the post-graduate course prize there, he has gone on to sing roles for Pavilion Opera, Heritage Opera, Buxton Festival Opera, Opera Minima, Operamus, Stanley Hall Opera, Opera Seria, Secret Opera, Saffron Opera Group, Hashtag Opera and Apollo Opera. He was a member of the professional chorus at Buxton for five years.
Sara Wilander was born in Sweden and started playing the piano at the age of eight. At the age of 15, she made her debut as a soloist with the Sinfonia Classica of Brussels, Belgium. After preparatory studies at the Conservatoire National de Région of Chalon sur Saône, France, she continued at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where she completed her BMus(Hons), PgCert, PgDip and MMus. She has participated successfully in Swedish, German, English and French competitions, as a soloist as well as an accompanist. She is an experienced performer and has appeared in both solo and chamber settings throughout Europe. She is in demand as a soloist, chamber musician, and as an accompanist.