HULL, BEVERLEY & DRIFFIELD MALE VOICE CHOIRS at the MENIN GATE
Early in 2018 the men of the Hull Male Voice Choir were given a song written to remember those brave souls who were lost in the 1st World War. “Sleep Sweet, evermore” was never published and we had only manuscript copies but from a first sing through it was clearly very special. Having been to the Menin Gate in Ypres on a number of occasions I immediately began to think how awesome it would be to take this song and sing it at their daily Evening Ceremony. I took courage and mentioned the idea to the choir and found a most encouraging response.
Using a good contact in Ypres it was possible to get the permission of the ‘Last Post Association’ to sing, so now we had to get the guys mobilising. Although our MEMBERS were keen to be involved a number realised it would be a challenge that may well be beyond them. We had a good response but not enough to be heard in the open. We nearly aborted but there was one more option, could we invite other Male Voice Choirs to join us? It was agreed that we ask the Beverley & Driffield choirs and again there was an immediate response and serious interest. We needed enough men to form a choir, perhaps around 30+ and partners & friends to fill a coach too. 48 seats, can we get enough? Can we indeed!! We first amended to a 72 seater coach and then another amendment – two 48 seaters! So on Sunday evening, 28th October, 2018 we take the evening ferry with 47 singers, a Musical Director and Accompanist plus another 44 supporters. With a bit of good fortune we hope to sing on the journey and will have a short repertoire of songs to sing. On the Monday morning we will be coached to the vast Tyne Cot Military Cemetery where we can remember some of our brave fallen from Hull & the East Riding – we will also sing for them. Another visit will be to the much smaller cemetery of Essex Farm, famous for being the place where Capt John McCrae wrote the war poem “In Flander’s Fields” … and we will sing there too.
We will settle briefly in our hotel in Roeselare before heading for Ypres in time to take our places at the Evening Ceremony which takes place every day at 8.00 pm and we will sing “Sleep Sweet, evermore”. It will be for us one of the truly most moving experiences we shall ever have. Later we can ‘poppy cross’ some of our local heroes recorded on the Menin Gate memorials and find some refreshments.
We will return to Ypres on the Tuesday morning, visit the Flanders Field Museum in the city square and call on the local chocolate & souvenir shops too! After lunch we set off on our return but on route we will call at a very different war cemetery, that of Langemark. It is a place that remembers many of the fallen German soldiers – I’m sure we can sing a song for them, one hundred years on.
Our visit will be just a few days before the Centenary of the Armistice, poignant and very moving for us all.
Sleep Sweet evermore in the place where you fell In fields were red poppies flourish We will remember and ne’er forget Your memory we will cherish.
We live in a land that is free, thanks to thee, And this will not be forgotten More poppies now than those fields could hold Are scattered in your memory.
The torch of freedom we shall take And you shall sleep in peace And if our courage is as great, Your faith we shall not break.
Young men flourish now like the poppies so red Those fields still there to remind us Your spirit lives in the young, the young, You have not died in vain. Keith Williams