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War and sacrifice in literature and song

By Joseph Carin [1]

BELLEVILLE – International baritone singer and Albert College [2] alumnus David John Pike [3], with renowned pianist Matthew Larkin [4], gave a moving performance of remembrance last Friday evening.

It was a night where the old world met the new, where Billy Joel met Ralph Vaughan Williams [5]. It was a night where young men lost to war were remembered through literature and song.

The concert, The Lads in Their Hundreds [6], mixed harrowing classical ballads from composers such as Ivor Gurney [7] and Gerald Finzi [8] with powerful war poetry and journal readings from the era by Albert College students.

“There’s great beauty in the horror of war,” Pike said in an interview with QNet News. “The show is not so much a glorification, not so much sanctifying the horrors of war – it’s condemning it. It’s regretting it. And this is shown through the choice of repertoire.”

The program’s title, The Lads in Their Hundreds, comes from A.E Housman’s [9] book of poetry titled A Shropshire Lad [10]. Housman’s work is a collection of lyrical ballads focusing on adolescent passions and the loss of innocence in a world devoid of mercy – a reality for those who served their country in the First World War.

David Pike's hands

David Pike wears a ring of remembrance – a gift his grandmother gave her fiancé. The young man died in the First World War. Photo by Joseph Carin, QNet News

But the connection between A Shropshire Lad and the Great War goes deeper.

“Many of the troops from the English-speaking world took little pocket books of the Shropshire Lad poems into battle,” Pike explained.

While Pike has no direct family connection to the First World War, he wears the ring of his grandmother’s fiancé, who died during the war.

“He died, not of a sniper’s wound, or machine-gun fire, or anything so dramatic like you see in the movies. He died of pneumonia like so many others did.”

“He died, not of a sniper’s wound, or machine-gun fire, or anything so dramatic like you see in the movies. He died of pneumonia like so many others did.”

His grandmother gave the ring to her young fiancé as an an engagement gift; it was returned to her by a survivor after the war. He wears it as a testament to what could have been if the tragedy of the First World War had never struck.

“It’s a touching story, one that every family has something like, and that’s our story,” he said.

Attached below is a audio clip song cover of George Butterworth’s composition “The Lads in their Hundreds.” It features powerful baritone vocals and smooth piano keys to invoke feelings of solemn remembrance.

 

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