A Walk Into War
Tenor and Piano Quintet
Words: Laurie Lee
Available on CD
"...hailed by the festival director as a masterpiece of modern chamber works." (Salisbury Journal)
The cream of Britain's classical artists came together for the first performance of A Walk Into War at the Salisbury International Arts Festival in June 2002. The Allegri String Quartet, joined by internationally acclaimed tenor Paul Agnew and the exceptional young pianist Daniel Tong, premièred a work inspired by one of Britain's best loved authors, Laurie Lee.
A Walk Into War for tenor and piano quintet is based on two books by the English writer, Laurie Lee. The first, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, is an account of Laurie Lee leaving his village in Gloucester, walking through Wiltshire and the South before working a year in London and travelling to Spain. Laurie Lee left Spain at the onset of the Spanish Civil War, but returned to fight some time later. The account of this is given in a later book, A Moment of War.
A Walk Into War has nine songs in all, grouped within three main sections. The first, an English phase, is concerned with Laurie Lee’s departure from his village, making his living by busking, and working in London. Laurie Lee was just 19 years old (‘still soft at the edges’) and these years were the 1930’s; hence at times there exists a layer of apprehension to the lighter quality. A Spanish section sets some of the dominant aspects of his long walk through Spain, a period of his book which captures so beautifully his own youth and naivety, and the ‘unspoilt’ feeling of Spain at this time. The third and final section of A Walk Into War takes as its basis his return to Spain to fight in the Spanish Civil War. Subsequent analysis has brought some controversy to Laurie Lee’s account but his writing still remains one of the most evocative and important descriptions of this period of history, not least because he writes so easily about the contradictions of war - optimism and desolation, organization and confusion.
I have constructed this libretto from the two books and with the exception of one or two minor alterations all the phrases are preserved in their original form. Some deliberate musical references have been made, chosen because their première occurred in the year in question. These include Vaughan Williams and Walton, as well as allusion to Spanish structures of particular regions. A Walk Into War was commissioned by the Allegri Quartet and supported by Southern Arts for its première at the Salisbury Festival 2002 with guest artists Paul Agnew (tenor) and Daniel Tong (piano). It was subsequently recorded by the Allegri Quartet, Paul, and Daniel, and released on the Journeymen CD available here. .