On Friday and Saturday, September 15th and 16th, 2017, composer Piet Swerts' A Symphony of Trees will be premiered in Ypres' St. Martin's Cathedral, one hundred years after the Third Battle of Ypres and fifty years after the performance of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem in the same cathedral. A Symphony of Trees is a tribute to the city of Ypres and poet/composer Ivor Gurney.
During the spring of 2015, 138 memorial trees were planted in and around Ypres. The tall elms mark the location of the front during 1915-1917 (following the longest lasting front lines in the period between Second and Third Ypres). Even as the commemorative years '14-'18 pass into history, these frontline trees will continue to play a special role in the exploration ans discovery of the Ypres Salient as a unique frontline landscape.
When the British soldier, poet and composer Ivor Gurney arrived at the front of the Ypres Salient in 1917, many trees had already been destroyed. Gurney, deeply shocked by this utter destruction of nature, wrote about the barren, mutilated trees as a symbol of human suffering. The trees grew back, as did the rebuilt Ypres, as permanent witnesses to the horrors of a world war.
A Symphony of Trees wants to captivate listeners with a gripping, emotional experience that unconsciously becomes a meta-reflection on the great atrocities people can inflict on each other and the sickening nonsense of all that inhuman suffering. A Symphony of Trees wants to speak from the heart, musically, and be a cathartic musical work.
The performaners of the premiere will be the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen conducted by David Angus, soloists Thomas Blondelle and Lee Bisset and eleven choirs: Canteclaer (Lo-Reninge), Collegium de Dunis (Brugge), Con Coore (Waregem), deCHORALE (Antwerpen), Iepers Kamerkoor (Ieper), Kortrijks Vocaal Ensemble (Kortrijk), Laidos (Waregem), Qui Vive (Desselgem), Roeselaars Kamerkoor (Roeselare), Rondinella (Knokke) and Voices! (Knokke).