New music will ring out at Durham Cathedral to mark The Somme

Charlie Hardwick
Charlie Hardwick

A moving musical event to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme will ring out at Durham Cathedral tomorrow.

Charlie Hardwick and Phil Corbitt will perform alongside more 100 members from the Centenary Choir & Brass Band and Voice of Hope, one of the North East’s leading chamber choirs, to premiere The Durham Hymns at Durham Cathedral on Saturday, July 16 at 7.30pm.

The event has been produced to commemorate the centenary of one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War and the sacrifice, courage and endurance of the people of County Durham during the course of the Somme offensive, which ran from July 1-November 18, 1916.

The Durham Hymns, which is taking place as part of the BRASS Festival 2016, features lyrics specially written by the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, with new music commissioned from composers Orland Gough, Jessica Curry and Johnny Bates.

North East actress Charlie, who is best-known for playing Val Pollard in Emmerdale, said: “When I was asked to be involved with The Durham Hymns – a commemoration of the First World War involving the Poet Laureate’s words – I didn’t hesitate. My grandfather was in that war joining when he was just 16. “Then when I was told that new music was being specially commissioned for the piece and there would be brass bands – and it would take place at Durham Cathedral I was just blown away. I’m expecting the event to be hugely emotional.”

TV and stage actor Phil Corbitt will share the stage with Charlie, and provide the voice of the people of County Durham, directed by Max Roberts, artistic

director of Live Theatre.

They will tell the story that has been put together with the help of the Durham County Record Office. The artistic team behind the concert drew inspiration from personal letters, diaries, press reports and court records of the time,plus experiences recounted in personal memoirs.

The Durham Light Infantry suffered terrible casualties at the Somme – of 15,000 soldiers from the company who took part in the battle, over half of that number were wounded, killed or reported missing.

It is their sacrifice, as well as the endurance of the County Durham people on the home front, that inspired Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy to pen the lyrics for this new suite of hymns.

Tickets for The Durham Hymns cost £20 (£15 concessions), while tickets by the Font are priced at £18 (£13 concessions) and are available now from the Gala Theatre Box Office.

The concert will be repeated in the Chapel of Ushaw College on September 24. Further performances are planned at Sunderland Minster, St Hilda’s, Hartlepool, and St Joseph’s in Felling, Gateshead, reflecting something of the original County Durham boundaries, which at the time of the First World War included the industrial centres of Gateshead, South Tyneside, Sunderland and Hartlepool.