13 thoughts on “Britain: 70 years of Workers Music Association

  1. Thank you for your excellent piece about the WMA. Just to let you know that the Birmingham Clarion Singers are still very active, and have just set up their very own website! We would be delighted if you would link to our new site. I am their secretary, and Aubrey Bowman is our president. We recently celebrated our 65th anniversary, and hope to have many more years singing for peace and solidarity.

    [UPDATE March 2011: site link changed, adapted now]

  2. Well Versed

    (Wednesday 31 October 2007)

    POETRY: Poem of the week
    edited by JOHN RETY

    POEM OF THE WEEK: Hymn to Friendship by Mozart.

    Let us now by friendship guided,
    By no creed or race divided,
    Sing of peace,
    Our right from birth.
    As good-will and friendship bind us,
    Thoughts of ill left far behind us,
    Be it so over all the earth,
    Be it so over all the earth.
    Pray that strife and sorrows perish,
    Render thanks for joys we cherish,
    Which from Nature’s bounty flow.
    May these blessings be extended
    To all people and never ended.
    So may health, grace, goodness flow
    So may health, grace, goodness flow.
    Honour, truth and justice ever,
    Wisdom love and high endeavour
    Be our duty and delight.
    East to West, each human being
    Live in peace and plenty seeing.
    Friendship fair and heavenly light,
    Friendship fair and heavenly light.

    Translated by Frida Knight
    About the Poet

    This is one of the songs which will be sung by the Birmingham Clarion Singers, augmented by a contingent from the Workers Music Association, at 7.30pm on November 10 at the All Saints Church, Kings Heath, Birmingham.

    The concert is in celebration of the life of a past conductor of the choir Katharine Thompson, whose sister Frida Knight translated this beautiful hymn expressing Mozart’s credo.

    Knight also wrote the libretto to Aubrey Bowman’s opera William Morris in 1980. It would be good to hear this on the stage after so many years.
    Another rarity which will be sung is by Randall Swingler, the still very topical final song from Freedom on the Air, an operatic drama with incidental music by Alan Bush which was banned at the last moment by the BBC in 1940.

    The first four lines read: “Oh, now strike hard, this year, this day, this hour/Death’s rule is broken and life shall come to flower/And over the fence of fear let courage vault/For truth is on the march that none can halt.”

    John Rety of Hearing Eye Press and Torriano Meeting House is a former editor of anarchist paper Freedom.


    Source: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/

  3. Quite good, hit the nail on the head in regard to Bush and why Iraq is not vietnam, lately though I find it interesting that when the military men were punished under the Clinton administration for critisizing the President, it was said they were excercising freedom of speech. However now that military people are speaking up, the right wing is coming damn close to calling them traitors. These are the same people who ask why the German Officers durring World War II stayed silent and did not protest to Hitler, I guess they are saying a “Democraticly ELECTED REPUBLICAN President” is taboo to critisize? But it’s OK to slander Democratic Presidents? Unless and until the world stands up, it will by it’s silence give consent to the Iraq Occupation. At this point in time I am shocked to see many of my fellow military men going to Canada to protest this unjust (in their opinon war) quite frankly the idea of invaiding Iraq after 9/11 makes as much sense as invaiding Australia after Pearl Harbor in 1941. Of the 19 highjackers there were how many Iraqi’s? hmmm clever these Iraqi’s to have disguised themselves as Saudi and Egyptian Nationals…..
    I urge all who read this to write Canada to provide sanctuary to the war resistors who are going North. Because in the end that is the only option. The Amaerican founding fathers said when an comissioned officer disagrees with national policy he should resign, however WHEN Lt Watada tried to do so….
    SO the only options left is to apply for CO status or travel North, kind of like Pre Civil War United States when escaped slaves would go north for freedom? Oh you say soldiers are NOT slaves? Hmmm then why do we say “I can’t be fired-slaves are sold!” Sold to keep the world safe for Exxon repeating the crimes done as Marine General Smedley Butler pointed out in his writing “War is a Racket”.
    Rise up for freedom!
    Today it is Iraq
    Tomorrow it will be YOU! IF you have natural resource the american corperations need.

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  8. I am a past student of Alan Bush and at the behest of the Alan Bush Music Trust have prepared into print more than 20 of his works which were left in manuscript. IU am as member of the Orpheus Choir of North Herts and in June we are presenting a concert of summer music. I have a copy of Alan’s arrangement of SUMER IS ICUMEN IN which our choir would like to perform. Would there be any problem if I were to photocopy this work for our poerormance?

    Martin Leadbetter

  9. Wednesday 4th October 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    ANDY CROFT recommends an excellent new book on communist composer Alan Bush

    Alan Bush, Modern Music and the Cold War
    by Joanna Bullivant
    (Cambridge University Press, £75)

    THE COMMUNIST composer Alan Bush (1900-95) is usually described as a man of unresolved contradictions, an Establishment figure who was also a dissident, the outsider who enjoyed the comfortable life of the insider.

    Bush was Professor of Harmony and Composition at the Royal Academy of Music for over half a century but, on at least two occasions, he was blacklisted by the BBC. When his first piano concerto was performed on the BBC Third Programme in 1938, Adrian Boult led the orchestra and choir straight into the national anthem in order to “balance” the revolutionary implications of the chorale finale.

    And, although his first opera Wat Tyler won the 1951 Festival of Britain opera competition, it was only performed once in Bush’s lifetime in the UK. Like all his operas it was premiered in the GDR.

    Joanna Bullivant’s newly published book, the first full-length study of Bush’s life and music, is long overdue and wholly to be welcomed. Despite the inexcusable cover price and a sometimes over-academic introduction, anyone interested in Alan Bush’s music should get their local library to stock it.

    The author works hard to rescue Bush from the usual modernist and anti-communist orthodoxies that compare his work unfavourably to composers Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippet, or which routinely claim that he sacrificed his talent for his political commitments. Trying to separate Bush’s music and his politics is impossible, she argues, as both were bound up with his sense of his musical and moral responsibilities in an era of crisis.

    At the heart of the book is an account of the many projects in the 1930s and 1940s — most notably the 1939 Festival of Music for the People — in which, working with the London Labour Choral Union and the Wokers’ Music Association, Bush tried to take classical music out of the concert hall.

    There is an excellent discussion of Bush’s Cantata The Winter Journey in relation to Tippet’s A Child of Our Time and Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols and a suggestive comparison of the ritual elements in The Winter Journey and Britten’s Peter Grimes.

    Bullivant explores the various competing influences on Bush’s thinking and practice, from Hanns Eisler to Arnold Schoenberg and Christopher Caudwell to Paul Hindemith.

    And, among Bullivant’s accounts of his four operas, is a fascinating study of the musical components of The Sugar Reapers, his opera about the Guyanese liberation struggle.

    She is also good on Bush’s relations with those German composers such as Eisler, Georg Knepler and Ernst Meyer who came to London as political refugees after 1933. And, instead of the usual caricatures of Bush being a pawn of the GDR authorities, she argues that it was the other way round — Bush’s thinking and practice had a significant influence on the socialist state’s musical culture.

    And, for those critics who have dismissed Bush as a “Stalinist,” Bullivant reminds us that there were two sides to the cold war. According to Bush’s recently released MI5 files, during the so-called phoney war the secretary of the communist party’s William Morris Musical Society was an MI5 agent and when he was co-opted onto the party’s national cultural committee in 1950, his nomination papers were intercepted by MI5 and,in 1957, it prevented Bush travelling to British Guiana in order to research local musical traditions.

    The book might have benefited from less theory and more biography, especially concerning Bush’s relationships with his principal librettists‚ among them Montagu Slater, with whom he wrote the Communist Manifesto Centenary pageant in 1948, Randall Swingler, who wrote the text for his first piano concerto and his wife Nancy, who wrote the words for three of his operas.

    Nevertheless, Bush emerges from this book as a major figure, one whose professional and political life was dedicated to creating a participative musical culture that was accessible, educational, enjoyable and radical.


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