Talkies Community Cinema has never been known to rest on its laurels. This month the locally based "pop-up" cinema will be launching its third HERE film festival with a special event featuring for the first time a live orchestra. The film in question is of great historical importance and was itself a groundbreaking achievement when it was first shown just over a hundred years ago.
Talkies' screening of The Battle of the Somme on 22nd March at Heartlands High School will form part of an international project, Somme 100 Film, which aims to put on a hundred live orchestral performances of the iconic 1916 film with composer Laura Rossi’s acclaimed score, commissioned by the Imperial War Museums. Somme 100 runs throughout the centenary year, up until July 2017.
Laura Rossi will be at the event, where she will introduce the film and her musical score, which will be performed by the Haringey Young Musicians Orchestra. For young musicians in Haringey the March event will be the start of a six-month project. Peter Desmond, Head of Haringey Music Service, says that the project will be exploring wider historical and ethical themes, focussing on new compositions, music for film and links to World War 1:
"Schools are engaging with the project and the Haringey Young Musicians Big Band will be visiting the battlefields at Ypres in July 2017 along with students from the Vale special school to perform a piece of musical theatre written by them to commemorate a young soldier from Tottenham who died in the Battle of Passchendaele."
For one member of the orchestra, Alice Hathway (13), it will be a very special occasion. Alice's great, great uncle was a soldier fighting at the Somme in WW1. One hundred years later she is performing to commemorate this major historical event. Alice says, " It's such a wonderful thing to be taking part in this concert - seeing the film and playing the music shows me what my Great Great Uncle Charlie had to go through when fighting in the Battle of the Somme. He can't have been much older than me when he went out there and it really makes me realise that it was because of people like him that we can enjoy life as we know it."
The film screening will take place in the second half of the programme. The first half will be a concert by Haringey Young Musicians conducted by Peter Desmond:
- Dvořák: Carnival Overture
- Rutter: Suite Lyrique
- Kabelevsky: Cello Concerto in G Minor
The Battle of the Somme, one of the most-watched films in British history, went on general release across the UK in August 1916, and was shown throughout the regions in the months that followed. It was the first ever feature length documentary film to show footage of war in action, and was seen by some 20 million people in the first six weeks of its release. It was watched by over half the UK population, hoping to catch a glimpse of a loved one, relative or someone they knew. The film broke all box office records, only to be beaten by the Star Wars films in the 1970s.
On 21 August 1916 it was shown simultaneously in thirty-four London cinemas, followed by multiple showings in cinemas in Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds the following week. The Royal Family even had their own, private screening at Windsor Castle and The Battle of The Somme went on to be shown in more than eighteen countries worldwide.
The initial showings were accompanied by a medley of classical, folk and popular music of the time, played live by musicians in cinemas. The new score by Laura Rossia was commissioned by Imperial War Museums in 2006.
Laura Rossi says, "There were over four hundred and nineteen thousand casualties, which means there are still many thousands of people across the UK who have connections with the Battle of the Somme, not least the descendants of the casualties and those who lost their lives. We are asking musicians - youth, amateur and professionals - to form a community to commemorate this shared moment in our history. We want to reach and inspire audiences on a national scale, the way the film did a hundred years ago, to commemorate those who lived, fought and died throughout the Battle."
Laura Rossi has written extensively for film and television, including a number of silent films. While writing the soundtrack, Laura discovered a personal connection to the Battle of the Somme: her great uncle, Fred Ainge from Birmingham, was a stretcher-bearer attached to the 29th Division which features in the film. Through his diaries, Laura was able to retrace his footsteps across the Somme battlefields.
Supported by Arts Council England, Somme100 FILM is working with Imperial War Museums (IWM) as part of the First World War Centenary Partnership. The IWM are offering the film hire free of charge for the centenary tour dates until 15 July 2017, and fellow project partners Faber Music are offering a reduced hire fee for the centenary performances. Composer Laura Rossi and specialist film historians can be booked to give pre-concert talks about both the film and the music as part of the live screening events. Full details of how to take part can be found at www.somme100film.com.
Somme100 FILM's educational activities involve a number of secondary schools across the UK, providing them with an integrated, flexible education project. The music element will include a focus on 14 - 18 year-old composers creating their own music to footage from the Battle. Some pupils' compositions will be performed at special public screenings. The online resources will be free for any school to download, and will include a framework, outline, lesson plans, and podcasts, highlighting cross-curricular links.