Charles Hamilton Sorley (E)
Choral level of difficulty: 2 (5 greatest)
Charles Hamilton Sorley was killed at the battle of Loos on 13 October 1915 aged twenty. Some strange coincidence found me writing this on 13 October 2021 and wondering at his remarkable maturity in the sentiments expressed in his powerful poem about the devastating waste of young life in war, including, all too soon, his own. MacMillan has raged against such waste and against injustices, criminal political regimes and abuses of human rights all his life. This setting, written for his second Cumnock Tryst festival in 2015 (the centenary of Sorley’s death) reminds me in its essence of Elgar’s We will remember them. MacMillan mirrors Elgar’s setting in the deep, touching simplicity of his response to Sorley’s words. One comes out of the experience feeling a harrowing sense of the futility of such conflicts – which still go on – and a feeling of such loss in reflecting on what Sorley himself might have become given a normal lifespan.
This short motet is not difficult for choirs and will make a powerful impact in liturgical or concert situation. Just be sure that the words can be heard clearly.
Repertoire Note by Paul Spicer