Alan Bush and WMA Perform Choral Piece Devoted to Lidice – 1947

Following Dr Barnett Stross and the British Lidice Shall Live delegation in their pilgrimage to Lidice in 1947 were eminent composer and conductor Alan Bush and his Workers’ Music Association (WMA) Singers. Bush had established the WMA in 1936, and they were visiting Czechoslovakia to participate in the First International Youth Festival hosted in Prague.

Poster For The First International Youth Festival, Hosted In Prague In July 1947
Poster for the First International Youth Festival, Hosted in Prague

The programme of events set to last four weeks was launched with more than 17,000 young people from 72 countries gathered together under the slogan “Youth, Unite in the Fight for a Firm and Lasting Peace!” on the afternoon of July 25th, 1947, at Prague’s Strahov Stadium.

Here the festival was officially inaugurated to a proud fanfare of trumpets, and the blue flag of the World Federation of Democratic Youth was raised for the first time.

The Workers’ Music Association Singers contributed to the BBC’s “Britain Sings” transmissions to Europe and overseas for the duration of the war and had built up an excellent reputation for themselves with their performances of songs from the Resistance Movements and of the national songs of the Allied countries.

Their choir was now to meet its unseen audiences on the continent, who, throughout the conflict, secretly listened to those BBC broadcasts, knowing that discovery meant almost certain death. Meeting up with such dedicated supporters would be a humbling moment.

Under their conductor, Alan Bush, the well-known musician and composer, the choir gave concerts of representative English music and youth songs, sprinkled with a selection of international and partisan songs.

But in early August, the players also performed at Lidice a tribute specially written by Alan Bush to commemorate the martyrs of the village.

Alan Bush, Musician And Composer
Alan Bush, musician and composer

‘Lidice’ for Unaccompanied Mixed Chorus portrays the destruction of the village. Alan Bush‘s tribute website describes it thus:

The music starts low and quietly in B Aeolian. The music is profoundly sad but without a trace of sentimentality or self-pity. It ends with a beautiful, original cadence, the final chord being in B major.

The words were conceived by John’s wife, Nancy.

I have one of the original scores in my possession. It is not difficult to imagine a choir of British schoolchildren repeating the performance one day; it’s never been performed in Lidice since 1947, as far as I’m aware.

Due to his post-war associations with communism and the Warsaw Pact countries, Alan Bush was later shunned by the BBC, which treated him as persona non grata, a form of British McCarthyism that took hold of society in the mid-1950s.

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