Silence need not fall,
Nor memories fade away.
Music will endure.
Recently, I had the honor of presenting one of my compositions at a composers circle. The blog has been quiet lately because I have been diligently preparing for that event and a major choral event.
I started writing The Lost (for George Butterworth) after a 2016 blog post for Veterans Day. At that time, I did more research into Butterworth than had appeared in the initial post, and his story affected me deeply.
George Butterworth was a promising young English composer. One of his best-known works, which I quoted in remembrance of him in my composition, is The Banks of Green Willow, which you can hear here. He was friends with Ralph Vaughan Williams, and, as noted in the blog post The Symphony Lost in the Mail, helped Vaughan Williams reconstruct his symphony score when it disappeared.
He was also a folk dancer. There is film of him performing (in 1912!), alone, and as part of a group. You can see it here. At one point as four people are folk dancing, Butterworth and his friend accidentally collide, and you can see them laughing at their mistake.
Butterworth served ably in World War I. In 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, he was killed by a sniper. The fighting was so ferocious that the dead were quickly buried where they fell. Butterworth’s body was never recovered.
Butterworth: a composer, a lively, laughing dancer. Cut down. Lost.
The introduction of this piece expresses mourning for those lost in battle on the windswept fields of the Somme in France. A brief four-part writing segment asks, in disbelief, whether this is how it must be, with a resigned answer of yes, which returns later in the piece. The major key section is a paraphrase of Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow, as a half-remembered melody from long ago, twisted at the end by a bitterly mock-heroic snippet of an anthem as Butterworth must abandon his music to go off to war. A sudden strong C minor chord represents Butterworth’s death, and the pain of that loss, followed by resignation and the return to the introductory theme.
Here is The Lost.
Image attribution: Photograph of George Butterworth, about 1914 [Public domain], via Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Butterworth_2.jpg