Culture notes

The pity of war

19 September 2013

1:00 PM

19 September 2013

1:00 PM

Of all folk memories the Blitz remains one of the most enduring. In the autumn of 1940 the Luftwaffe strafed London on 57 consecutive nights, leaving (if that is the word) 20,000 dead and whole streets pounded to rubble. ‘You do your worst,’ Churchill told the Hun, ‘and we shall do our best.’

Noël Coward put it another way: ‘Every blitz, your resistance toughening, from the Ritz to the Anchor and Crown. Nothing ever could override the pride of London town.’ London prevailed, and the spirit of the capital was captured in the memorable image of St Paul’s Cathedral standing proudly untouched amid the smoke and fire of a city under nightly bombardment.


Francis Warner was only three when Hitler’s hordes came calling that September. Now, 73 years later, as an acclaimed poet, he has supplied the text for the Blitz Requiem, which receives its first performance in St Paul’s on 26 September. The music was composed by David Goode, the organist at Eton College.

David Hill will lead the Bach Choir, of which he is music director, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the world première of a work that could hardly be better suited to a specific place. The Bach Choir will also be marking a significant anniversary. It is 50 years since they sang on the famous recording of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, conducted by the composer, who had written it for the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in 1962. ‘My subject is war and the pity of war,’ said Britten, a subject that will always be with us.

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