I’ve been chatting about politics on and off all week with an online friend in England. Our conversation has been extremely polite and very careful, because we have almost no political opinions in common.
But we do both observe our minute’s silence on Remembrance Day.
Here’s some music for after the silence.
Our choir often sings this for ANZAC Day, which is not a dissimilar occasion. The lyrics are:
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it. Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lays down his life for his friends. Who, his own self, laid our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin should live unto righteousness. Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath brought you out of darkness into his glorious light. We beseech you brethren by the mercy of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
I’m not sure I’m convinced about the relevance of all the words, and some of them are maybe a bit too relevant for comfort. When, a few years ago, we had the big ANZAC Day service with members of the three branches of the military present, I felt deeply uncomfortable singing those final lyrics – who are we to be singing songs exhorting people to lay down their lives for their friends?
But the music is glorious and grand, and that whole double chorus after the solos (that we being dead to sin might live unto righteousness) is absolutely thrilling to sing. There’s some magnificent writing there, thank you, John Ireland. Interestingly, it was written in 1912 – I’d rather thought it was influenced by World War One, but I suppose it does have a touch of the Dulce Et Decorums about it, which had probably gone out of style by 1918.
And it does, at least to me, evoke a certain Edwardian sensibility, which seems appropriate in remembering the War.
(I’ll admit, I started off looking for Elgar, but couldn’t find a recording I liked of anything that was quite right. Maybe next year?)
Here’s something I did find, in passing. It turns out that a chap called Douglas Guest decided to put the words from the remembrance day service to music, and the choir of Westminster Abbey decided to sing it. I’m honestly not sure what I think of this arrangement, but it seems appropriate to include it.