The History Makers anthem was recorded on a chilly, foggy Sunday morning at Park Hall Trenches Experience near Oswestry. The inter-generational choir included members of the Mere Singers and students from the Mary Webb School. It reflected the spirit of the History Makers project of bringing older and younger members of the community together.

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We know that singing together can often have a real power and resonance to make something more meaningful. So it seemed a good idea to compose some music as the project’s anthem, which an a cappella group could perform. Fortunately Mary Keith, founder and leader of the Mere Singers, agreed to draft a composition following an initial meeting with the project manager. From their suggested ideas John Richmond developed the lyrics. They are based on lines from John McCrae’s original poem In Flanders Field.  Here they are, with McCrae’s original lines in italics:

The History Makers

In Flanders fields the poppies blow


Between the crosses, row on row.

 

 We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.

 

You are the dead; you were the brave.        

You whisper to us from the grave.

 

Although in thousands you are laid

We will not let your faces fade.

 

You met the challenge of the hour

And handed us the blood-red flower.

 

In broken earth it grows the best.

We promise you, who lie at rest

 

Across a century’s divide:

Not quite in vain you fought and died;

 

We clasp the hands of fallen men

And will not break the earth again.

 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow


Between the crosses, row on row.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago


We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.

 

You are the dead; you were the brave.

You whisper to us from the grave.

Mary Keith then composed this memorable and moving piece of music. We then looked for an appropriate outdoor location for the performance and Park Hall Trenches Experience was exactly right. During the recce for the filming Geoff Ward suggested filming the figure of a young Tommy alongside the choir performance.

We are most grateful to Finley Keith who played this part and to Stan at the Welsh Borderers Regimental Museum at Park Hall for providing the uniform and dressing Finley on the day. The photographs at the end of the video are either relatives of our interviewees or of soldiers of the Welsh Borderers from the Museum’s archives.

I know from talking to people after the recording that being in the re-imagined trenches’ landscape added to the meaning of the anthem and made everyone who took part that day reflect upon the First World War commemorations anew.

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