Clifton Cathedral and Bristol Symphony Orchestra present in partnership
the 1916 silent film The Battle of the Somme with live orchestra,
on Friday 18th November 2016, 8pm at Clifton Cathedral as part of Somme100 Film
The Film: 18th November is a fitting day for the presentation of the 1916 film The Battle of the Somme as it is the centenary of the final day of that terrible four month-long slaughter that brought such great loss on both sides. The film is made even more powerful by Laura Rossi’s score for orchestra, commissioned by Imperial War Museums (IWM) to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle, played by Bristol Symphony Orchestra under the baton of William Goodchild.
Somme100 Film is an international project working with IWM as part of the First World War Centenary Partnership, marking the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Its aim is to bring together 100 live orchestral performances of the film and this presentation is one of them.
To its 1916 audience the film gave unprecedented insight into the horrific realities of trench warfare, including depiction of dead and wounded soldiers which had not been shown in cinemas before. As they move towards the Front, troops smile awkwardly at the new-fangled cameras (the moving image was only about 20 years old then). The film reveals the build up to the infantry offensive, including the massive preliminary bombardment, and coverage of the first day of the Battle, which proved to be the bloodiest single day in Britain’s entire military history. It shows the attack’s small gains and huge casualties.
Shortly after the Battle, it is estimated that within the first two months of release, 20 million people saw the film in the UK, which was over half the country’s adult population. British official cinematographers Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell made the film, which is the source of many of the conflict’s most iconic images still used today. It was not originally intended as a feature film but once the quality and volume of footage had been seen, the British Topical Committee for War Films in London decided to compile this feature length film, so that everyone could witness the horrors of the War.
The Music: Laura Rossi’s score was written to accompany the soundtrack for the digitally restored film. When embarking on her research, she discovered that her great-uncle, Fred Ainge, whom she knew, as he had survived the War, was a stretcher-bearer attached to the 29th Division on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle. Using Fred’s diaries to locate the areas in which he had served, Laura visited the battlefields to help prepare herself for composing. The premiere took place in 2006 at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra with a five star review in The Times. (See her bio and contact info below.)
Pre-concert talk: Local journalist and broadcaster, Richard Hope-Hawkins, will give a half-hour talk from 7 to 7.30pm in the Apostle Room at Clifton Cathedral. He discovered that his great-uncle 2nd Lieutenant George Mitchell fought on the Somme alongside Australian soldiers, as did many from Bristol. His expert knowledge of World War I includes the Battle of Fromelles, a subsidiary attack during the Battle of the Somme.
Poetry Recitals: Word War I poems read by Bristol based actor, Norman Bowler.
Tickets: For full information about ticket prices, booking for the pre-concert talk (limited numbers) and for the concert, visit www.bristolsymphonyorchestra.com
Laura Rossi bio:
Laura writes extensively for film and television, including the critically acclaimed London to Brighton, The Eichmann Show and Song for Marion, the latter starring Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp, and all produced by Paul Williams. She has also scored many silent films including the British Film Institute’s Silent Shakespeare and, as well as The Battle of the Somme, The Battle of the Ancre.
Her latest work, Voices of Remembrance, is a choral and orchestral work featuring war poems read by Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave. The music was commissioned by Boosey & Hawkes to mark the centenary in 1914 of the First World War.
Laura’s music has been recorded and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Musici Orchestra, London Contemporary Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Performances have taken place at the Barbican, Royal Festival Hall and Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. She is also lecturer for film music at the London Film Academy.
Clifton Cathedral, in common with many other Cathedrals in the UK, is running a thoughtful programme of First World War commemoration events for the local community, diocese and the Cathedral’s many visitors. It is for this reason the Cathedral chose to host this special presentation of The Battle of the Somme and work in partnership with Bristol Symphony Orchestra.
Bristol Symphony Orchestra was formed in January 2016 – full details about the Orchestra and forthcoming concerts are available at
To get further information and book tickets for the concert and talk click here:
The Centenary Tour:
To read more about the SommeFilm 100 Project, click here:
To read more about the venue please click here:
Any press related stories, please contact Rachel via email at