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Geneva composer's work to be performed in 100th anniversary of WW1

GENEVA –  As England plans to recognize the 100th anniversary of World War I on Aug. 4, 2014, two original music compositions by a Geneva hobbyist will be performed there. 

Peter Mitchell, a retired CEO and business owner, said music he composed to the poem “In Flanders Field” will be performed a cappella in Ware, Hertfordshire, in England, along with another of his compositions, and works of other composers – and he has been asked to conduct them both.

The musical performance will benefit the British Poppy Appeal.

“It knocked my socks off when I got this email,” Mitchell said.

About 100 men and women are going to sing the Flanders Fields poem to his music. Also to be performed is his “On the Beaches of Normandy,” for which he wrote both lyrics and music. 

Ted Higgins, music director of The Opus One Big Band in England, saw a YouTube performance of Mitchell’s Flanders Field composition by the Fox Valley Festival Chorus a year ago. 

“He emailed me and asked if they could use it,” Mitchell said. “He told me they wanted to use it for the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I.

“Ware was the staging area for troops before they went to Europe.”

Lt. Col. John McCrae, a doctor in the Canadian Army, wrote “In Flanders Fields” in May 1915, commemorating the suffering of troops during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium. Mitchell said 500,000 died in an area not more than 1,000 yards in length.

World War I, 1914 to 1918, followed the assassination of Austria-Hungary Archduke Franz Ferdinand. As hostilities intensified that summer with declarations of war, Germany invaded Belgium on Aug. 4.

In an email, Higgins said the war’s anniversary will be commemorated at the government level, at the BBC and at the imperial War Museum in Central London. 

Higgins said in the email he was researching music to commemorate both world wars, as well as suitable music for a choir to sing McCrae’s poem when he found Mitchell’s work.

“There were several versions of it put to music,” Higgins’ email states. “I listened to them all, and when I heard Peter Mitchell’s version I fell in love with that version, with its haunting trumpet intro and coda – which to me was the most beautiful and fitting tribute one could wish to hear.”

Mitchell sent his arrangement of “The Beaches of Normandy” and Higgins decided it should be performed, too.

Mitchell said he is honored his music was chosen.

“Americans did not fight in Flanders Field, so to have American music in that special place where British, Canadian, Indian and German troops died – for the Brits to select an American for this important occasion – I think that is sort of special,” Mitchell said.

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