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Battle of the Somme Centenary Tour Unites Musicians

A live soundtrack for the original iconic 1916 Battle of the Somme silent movie will be performed next weekend which sees two orchestras team up.

The acclaimed First World War film will only have a hundred international screenings taking place to mark the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, with music and sound effects performed by a collection of orchestras worldwide.

Precision timing will be key throughout the 74 minute movie, and Stafford Orchestra and Stafford Grammar School’s orchestra are among the elite 100 picked to tackle Laura Rossi’s challenging score.

“Neither of us could take on the size of this score on our own because it requires about a 70 piece orchestra. As we were both keen to take part in the centenary tour, we decided to join together which is great because there will be a combination of adult and young musicians,” said Stafford Grammar’s director of music, Gavin Lamplough.

“It will be a unique experience and it will also be quite tough. This is a film score, so the live music has to be synchronized to the millisecond so that it matches the movie images. You have to deal with images such as the firing of a gun, which has to be replicated by a percussion instrument,” he added.

The film, which remains one of the most watched in British cinema history, was watched by around 20 million people throughout the autumn of 1916 It was shot by two cameramen, Geoffrey Malins and JB McDowell, and covered the build-up of the battle and opening stages on the front line, giving audiences an insight into life in the trenches.

A new orchestral score was commissioned from British film and TV composer Laura Rossi in 2006 as a soundtrack for the digitally restored feature length documentary. And now Somme 100 Film are working with the Imperial War Museums to mark the battle’s 100th anniversary by bringing the Battle of the Somme to audiences worldwide.

“This will be really good for Stafford. To have two local amateur orchestras involved in such a huge, 12 month centenary tour is remarkable. It’s also an enormous honour for the students and adult musicians to perform and pay tribute to all those in this area who fought in the War,” said Gavin, who will play the trumpet during the screening, while fellow musician Paul Nevins will be the conductor.

The Battle of the Somme will be shown at 7.30pm on Saturday, June 24 in the Sports Hall at Stafford Grammar School. Tickets can be bought on the door, priced £12 adults and £8 students.

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