D-Day 75: Veterans, youngsters and an orchestra work together on piece to be premiered in Southsea as part of commemoration weekend

Pupils in rehearsal for The Key Note of Everything to be SIMPLICITY, a D-Day 75 commemorative event, taking place on Southsea Common on June 7.
Pupils in rehearsal for The Key Note of Everything to be SIMPLICITY, a D-Day 75 commemorative event, taking place on Southsea Common on June 7.
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Second World War veterans, 100 children, 70 local amateur musicians, players from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and military bands have teamed up to perform a newly commissioned piece to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

The BSO is collaborating with leading young British composer James Olsen to commemorate the anniversary through this ambitious intergenerational project.

The new piece, entitled The Key Note of Everything to be SIMPLICITY (a phrase from General Montgomery’s one-page sketch for D-Day) will have its premiere during the weekend of commemorative events.

The project has brought together composer and filmmaker Olsen, D-Day veterans from the Royal Alfred Seafarers’ Society in Banstead (a care home for retired seafarers, their widows and dependants), and schoolchildren from across the region.

James and selected schoolchildren have interviewed the veterans, capturing their memories and stories as a unique ‘living history’ resource for future generations. Based on the veterans’ stories, the responses are being recorded and shaped by James into the composition.

The children’s ideas will be combined with James’ own compositional material and other primary sources from D-Day to form a ‘musical documentary’ for a large concert band-style orchestra, massed school choir and narrator.

Pupils in rehearsal for The Key Note of Everything to be SIMPLICITY. Standing at the back is composer James Olsen

Pupils in rehearsal for The Key Note of Everything to be SIMPLICITY. Standing at the back is composer James Olsen

The choir will be composed of young people from schools across the city.

The music will be performed by an orchestra of amateur musicians, playing side-by-side with professional BSO players. The group of approximately 70 talented amateur players will be invited from those who attended the BSO’s Rusty and Not so Rusty Musicians woodwind and brass events in Bournemouth in 2017 and 2018, along with amateur musicians from the Portsmouth area.

James and the BSO are documenting the whole process online through a series of YouTube videos.

James says: ‘I’m thrilled to be working with the BSO on this innovative project. We are fortunate that the Normandy landings are still in living memory, and their 75th anniversary provides an ideal subject for one of my musical documentaries, combining live performance, oral history and video.

‘Documenting the stories of veterans is a huge privilege, and this project is particularly close to my heart given that one of the participating D-Day veterans is my own grandfather.

‘I very much hope that we will raise awareness of a pivotal moment in European history not only amongst the young people who participate, but more widely amongst those who attend the performance and follow the project through our online documentaries.’

The BSO has worked with Portsmouth City Council, as well as the D-Day Story in Southsea. As the orchestra of the south and south West, the BSO works across the coast lines from which D-Day was launched.

It will be performed on Southsea Common on Friday, June 7.

The schools taking part in the massed choir are:
Milton Park Primary School

Meon Junior School

Cantate (Portsmouth Cathedral Youth Choir)

Boundary Oak School

St John’s College

St Faith’s

St James C of E Primary School

Lee-on-the-Solent Children’s Choir