‘Memorial’ is the piece of music I composed for the Roll of Honour video that lists the names of the men from Newhaven, in East Sussex, who died in the First World War.
My approach was to keep the piece simple – I wanted the music to support the visuals (the list of names) rather than take centre-stage and be overpowering. I wanted to somehow express the pain and grief of those left behind. The simple piano motif the piece opens with sounds, I hope, quite laboured in its delivery, hinting at the burden carried by relatives and friends of those lost.
Later in the piece, at about 3 minutes through, the arrangement builds, with more instruments being added. Also, the tempo is more consistent. I was visualising soldiers marching off, during this section, being watched by crowds of proud well-wishers. It’s a sort of ‘flash-back’ moment. At 4 minutes, the simple piano motif returns and is joined by a flute. This is the realisation we have, with the benefit of hindsight, of the outcome we are all aware of.
At about 4 ½ minutes through, however, the mood changes again. This time, my thoughts were with the men who had died. They had paid the ultimate price, but were now (as some will tell you they know and others will tell you they hope) passing over to a much better place. The more upbeat, although poignant, feel to this last segment represents their journey away from the horrors of war, carried to a higher place on the ever-rising strings of the orchestra. You may be able to pick out a military snare drum sound, within the arrangement of this section, played sparsely as an acknowledgement, if needed, that this long list of names met their fate through war. There’s also the sound of bells and a harp, representing…. well, you decide.
Finally, we return to the sorrow of those left behind – the solo piano returns. “We will remember them”.