In the First World War, music was heard on the battlefield, in concert halls, in the camps and in churches. Music reflected and affected all the emotions of war — pride and jingoism, sorrow and consolation – with everything from requiems to rousing choruses. Marking the First World War centenary, this new exhibition takes a broad look at the relationship between music and war against the background of radical musical change. Original instruments, images and manuscripts are all featured.
For many, music provided a source of hope, sanity and pleasure amidst the horrors of war. This special exhibition displays a host of popular and perhaps familiar songs, printed with bold graphic covers featuring heroic and sentimental images. These were catchy tunes, designed to inspire loyalty and patriotism.
‘War Music’ explores the reality of the battlefield, which often told a different story. See a wind-up trench gramophone, a tenor horn camouflaged with black paint to stop it glinting at the enemy, a burnt-out harmonica and soldiers’ song-books.
The unparalleled outpouring of poetry which the First World War provoked is also examined, as many verses were set to music by the foremost composers of the day.
Finally, the displays follow the Royal Academy of Music’s own story during the war: we learn about the exchange of German pianos for English ones, and discover how students and alumni fared once they’d enlisted and left London far behind.
A lively and moving programme of musical events accompanies the exhibition.
September 2014: The exhibition music player is currently being repaired. We are sorry this means there is no music in the gallery at the moment. It will be fixed as soon as possible.
Upcoming events in this series: Tuesday 16th September, 6.00pm
Captain David Hammond investigates the influence of musical training within the military on the rest of the music profession and its signigicance in the twenty-first century.Monday 22nd September, 6.00pm
Henry Wood Lectures: The Trench Cello
Distinguished cellist Steven Isserlis and renowned stringed instrument expert Charles Beare discuss the fascinating history of a rare ‘trench cello’ from the First World War.Wednesday 1st October, 6.00-8.00pm
Music Behind Bars: First World War Internment Camps
Dr Rupert Ridgewell and Dr Lewis Foreman each present an illustrated talk — the former exploring the internment camp at Alexandra Palace in London, and the latter Ruhleben Camp in Germany.Tuesday 28th October, 1.05pm
Academy Song Circle: Songs of War
Singers and pianists from Academy Song Circle present a recital featuring settings of poems about war and its effects, by a wide range of poets and composers.Saturday 15th November, 11.00am-12.30pm and 2.00-3.30pm
Showtime in Wartime: Family Play Day
Come along to discover the fun and escapist musicals soldiers liked to see when they were home on leave during the First World War. For children aged five to seven years.Tuesday 18th November, 7.00pm
Chinese New Year on the Western FrontDr Colin Huehns examines some of the earliest surviving footage of an instrument from the Chinese erhu family in performance from troops of the Chinese Labour Corps celebrating Chinese New Year on the Western Front during the First World War.
Friday 21st November, 2.30-4.00pm
Ravel the Soldier, Debussy musicien français
Dr Emily Kilpatrick and Dr Roy Howat explore Ravel’s and Debussy’s creative responses to the First World War.