The battered old War Requiem score I’ll be singing from at Cadogan Hall next Saturday was first used by my father, Ron Peck, in 1967, just five years after the first performance in Coventry Cathedral. It's littered with remarks, scribbles and coloured pencil marks made by my father as he used it to teach the work to the singers in his choirs. You can just about make out the notes!
The 1967 performance was in Guildford Cathedral, as was a subsequent performance in 1969, both times with soloists Eileen Poulter, Gerald English and Norman Herincx. I remember talk at the time that the ‘67 occasion was the first performance using amateur singers but I can’t be certain. I have a letter signed by Britten in reply to Dad’s to him describing the Guildford performance. The choirs involved were The Woking Choral Society and The Barnes Music Club Choir, now the Barnes Choir which Dad founded. Father was also organist and choirmaster of All Saints, East Sheen for 21 years.
I myself have sung the War Requiem a number of times. Memorable performances for me were in the Bach Choir in 1990 with Kurt Masur conducting, in 1991 at the Albert Hall with Andre Previn and in a 1995 BBC Prom conducted by Jane Glover. This last took place on 3rd September, the anniversary of the outbreak of WWII, 50 years after the end of the war.
I remember once in the Festival Hall being wedged with the tenors between the front row of the choir and the orchestral brass in the back row of the LPO and being so overwhelmed by the noise and clamour around me at the climax of Libera Me (the fffz bar, 116) that I was stunned into silence.
What a work!