In Flanders Fields was composed in 2014 in association with the Sospiri choir's A Multitude of Voices project to commemorate the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War.
Lt Col John MacCrae's iconic poem has become one of the most recognised and well-known symbols of World War One - not just in war poetry but also in the remembrance poppy tradition that it inspired. After a close friend was killed during the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, MacCrae composed the work while sat in the back of an ambulance on the day after the funeral, noting how quickly poppies grew around the graves of those who had fallen. The poem gained tremendous popularity and in 1918 inspired the American Legion to adopt the poppy as a memorial symbol, before the Royal British Legion followed suit in 1921, sparking a tradition that was rapidly embraced across the Empire.
This reflective setting meditates on the surreal serenity evoked by the text’s pastoral opening, mixed with the sombre voice of ‘the Dead’ as they solemnly sing their own epitaph. As with the poem itself, this piece was inspired by the image of beautiful poppy fields - incongruous amidst a brutal reality - ever-blooming long after the battle is over. The poignant recurring melody meanders, fragile and carefree, like a flower blowing gently in the wind. It reflects upon the tragic loss of those who inevitably never return from war, bringing to mind the endless peace of eternal rest and the gentle reassurance of everlasting remembrance.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.