Dame Caroline Spelman: Don't miss your chance to be part of history
In Westminster Hall tonight, Parliament's Choir will sing jointly with the choir of the German Bundestag to commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice - and remember the loved ones who fought to keep us safe, writes Dame Caroline Spelman
Tonight a landmark event will take place in Parliament to commemorate the Centenary of the Armistice that ended the Great War. The Parliament Choir will sing in Westminster Hall jointly with the choir of the German Bundestag. The concert is a joint venture between our two parliaments to remember the end of a time that deeply affected both our countries. This will be a great occasion to remember, with respect, the huge sacrifice borne by so many families around the globe.
I am sure that most people working on the parliamentary estate will have a connection to someone who was caught up in this terrible conflict. My own grandfather was an equine vet and saw the terrible ravages upon the warhorses and their men at Mons, the Somme and Gallipoli.
Westminster Hall is the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate. It is an astonishing structure, not simply because of its great size and the magnificence of its roof, but also because of its central role in British history. In and around the Hall grew up the major institutions of the British state: Parliament, the law courts and various government offices. Westminster Hall has been closely involved in the life of the nation since it was built in the 11th century: a journey through the Hall and its past is a journey through 900 fascinating years of our history. With this in mind, we are privileged indeed to be able to use Westminster Hall by the kind permission of the Speakers of both Houses and the Lord Great Chamberlain.
The concert taking place tonight at 7.30pm consists of Mozart’s Great C Minor Mass. The Parliament choir and the Bundestag choir have sung together previously in 2014 and 2016, building up a great friendship; this reflects the modern relationship between two countries embroiled in a catastrophic conflict 100 years ago.
Some readers may have attended the event in 2014 when 1,200 people sat in silence, spellbound, as Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang was sung from the steps of the Hall. The German Bundestag President spoke then, very movingly, of the terrible consequences of war and the sequence of events that cost so many lives. If you missed that then don’t miss this rare opportunity.
Before the concert, the Southbank Sinfonia, an orchestra of young musicians who the Parliament choir sponsor, will provide a musical serenade, Mozart’s for 13 Wind Instruments, as the audience take to their seats. Then the exquisite music of the glorious Mass setting will begin. The movements of the Mass will be interspersed with readings from the period: writings of war poets and novelists recalling the impact of the conflict on our two nations and the Commonwealth. The works of the Great War poets are often studied in English classrooms throughout this country but few realise that the novel All Quiet on the Western Front was, written by a German, and expressed the same horror as his British counterparts at the terrible cost of war.
As a choir made up of staff and parliamentarians, we would be delighted to have your support in commemorating this significant historical event. When you join us in Westminster Hall, do allow your gaze to wander up to the old beams of the great hall which have seen so much that has defined our Country through the ages.
So do come along and be part of making this piece of history. Why not bring your family, friends and colleagues to remember the loved ones who fought to keep us safe?
Tickets can be only purchased online via Eventbrite. For details please, search ‘parliament choir armistice concert’ or visit: www.parliamentchoir.eventbrite.co.uk
Dame Caroline Spelman is Conservative MP for Meriden