• Sandra Smith

19240 Fallen Soldiers Shrouds of the Somme

Show of Hands have an amazing story to tell about how this beautiful honouring of the soldiers came about. A chance meeting between Steve Knightley and artist Rob Heard grew into a fitting tribute to mark the centenary of this tragic event (read their story: http://www.thesomme19240.co.uk/).

After the great feedback SOH had when we joined them at Exmouth pavilions, Xmas 2015, SOH invited us back to sing with them at this landmark event and asked us to do 2 solo numbers, too. One of the songs on their studio album, 'The Padre,' written by Chris Hoban, is in our set, as Chris arranged it especially for our choir, after hearing us back in 2014.It is an emotional and beautiful song and perfect for this event. We also chose 'Johnny has gone for a soldier' to show the women's view point of loss in war, too (see a rehearsal clip filmed by Phil Beer on Media page)

We were thrilled to be part of this event and Chris Hoban wrote a new song 'The Lily and the Rose' especially for the consert, for Miranda, her double bass and the female section of our choir. It was a highlight of the evening!

We rehearsed and did sound checks during the day. SOH had been on call at the shrouds from about 7am, the time the soldiers went over the top, that morning, reading out the names of the fallen soldiers.It made the national news. Steve, Jim Carter, Imelda Staunton and officials from the Forces continued to read the names.

Rob Waite was working on the sound acoustics in the Cathedral - a very difficult job with a band and a choir! The lighting effects by Marcus Bartlett were incredible adding drama and emotion to the show.

Backstage, although there was a lot of waiting, it was fascinating to see the show come together. It was being recorded for radio and the live album too.

Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton were brilliant, down to earth and very kind! Imelda read The Call' by Jessie Pope, over our tune 'Johnny has Gone' She had the timing down in one take! Both were fabulous reading the poems (needless to say!)

A lot of the choir went up to see the shroud exhibition during a short break in sound checks.

900 people, press, dignitaries from council and the Forces came to see the concert - the atmosphere was emotional and amazing. The warmth in the cathedral was tangible. Looking back to the concert, it's like this symbolized a celebration of the soldiers lives, their loves, their hopes and their bravery. There were so many different emotions flooding through the cathedral - laughter, crying, awe, excitement, love - all the states that make us all connect in our humanity. It was a real event, unmasked and genuinely given.

Miranda had a dreadful cold, hence the cup of tea! Her voice held out and was as beautiful as ever!

With Imelda Staunton

Steve singing 'The Gamekeeper'

It was an incredible night and a magnificent memorial for the soldiers

The shroud exhibition had hit home- with thousands of people attending Northenhay Gardens to see the figures. On the final day, there was a closing ceremony with soldiers reading out the last of the 19240 soldiers names. The bugles called the last post, the rain that had held off, started gently dropping like a mist, as if the heavens themselves,were crying. We can't imagine how many men, 19240 deaths are. It has changed the social landscape of this country for ever. No fathers, no husbands, no brothers, no sons.

We sang with tight throats that day, looking at those tiny figures, alone, wet and splattered with red dust. They never came home, but they have not been forgotten. Their families came to remember them, to honour them and to lay them to rest

Watch this moving and sensitive report from WestCountry News about the closing ceremony


#ChrisHoban #ShowOfHands #BattleoftheSomme #19240ShroudsoftheSomme #MirandaSykes #Folk #ExeterCathedral #ImeldaStaunton #JimCarter #PhilBeer #SteveKnightley #RobHeard

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