Albert Burchell as a young man and in later life
A violin which went to the Western Front with a young soldier is to be played once again in a special free concert to mark the Centenary of the Armistice.
Born in Walthamstow, Albert Edward Burchell enlisted into the Essex Regiment on 30 December 1914 at the age of seventeen and a half. In 1916 he was posted to the Western Front as part of the Hertfordshire Regiment, carrying with him his treasured violin, on which he scratched his Army numbers, units and some of the places he served in.
Private Burchell survived to see the end of the First World War, one hundred years ago on 11 November 1918, and lived to the age of 86. After his death, his family very kindly donated his violin to the Essex Regiment Museum.
Now it will be played once more as part of a free concert arranged by Chelmsford City Council in collaboration with Essex Music Education Hub and Orchestras Live.
On Wednesday 7 November, a hundred young musicians from five Chelmsford schools will perform a new composition for orchestra and choir, 'The Violin', at Chelmsford Cathedral. The concert will feature Private Burchell's violin, played by one of the young local musicians side-by-side with professionals from the City of London Sinfonia and other young people from Chelmsford County, Hylands, Sandon, Boswells and Great Baddow High Schools.
Created by the young musicians in collaboration with composer John K Miles, the piece tells the story of Private Burchell and his instrument as they journeyed to the front line in the Great War, through many battles and ultimately to a safe return home to look forward to future peace.
The concert also includes readings by the students and music performed by the City of London Sinfonia of works written by wartime composers, including Holst, Ravel, Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth.
Private Burchell's grandson, Alan, and granddaughter Adele are coming all the way from Cornwall to hear the concert.
The family were contacted by Major Peter Williamson, Chairman of Trustees of the Essex Regiment Museum, who said, "We are delighted that one of our most interesting museum exhibits is being brought back to life in a way that reminds all of us alive today of the sacrifices made by so many who have fought for our freedom over the years."
Alan said, "I was delighted to hear about the Chelmsford Cathedral concert very recently, it was wonderful timing, as Major Peter Williamson had been trying to find me for a while - I had moved since the violin was donated by my family to the Essex Regimental Museum in 1999.
"I have vivid memories of my grandfather Albert Burchell playing this violin to me when I was a young boy - he and his wife were evacuated to the Lizard in Cornwall during World War Two and remained there for the rest of their days.
"Private Burchell's son David and his daughter-in-law Jo are now both in their late 80s and they have their own memories of Albert playing this violin when they were engaged in the early 1950s.
"My parents, my sister Adele and my children all feel so proud and very honoured that time and money was spent on restoring Albert's violin to be played at such a poignant centenary Remembrance concert."
The Mayor of Chelmsford, Councillor Yvonne Spence, said, "This is a wonderful way to remember those in the First World War, serving and supporting the Armed Forces, and their families left at home. Thanks to all involved - it should be a very special evening."
Peter Lovell of Essex County Council's Music Services said, "It is not every day that a new work is composed by young people about World War One, and this work based around the unique journey of a soldier's violin has been a superb stimulus."
Stuart Bruce of Orchestras Live said, "This is the fourth project we have produced with City of London Sinfonia, Essex Music Services and schools in Chelmsford, the main aim being to enable young people to shape their collaboration with world-class musicians by creating, performing and presenting music for an orchestral concert."
A collection will take place at the concert in aid of the Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent Charity, which helps to look after veterans in need, whether old or young, Regular or Reserve.
Doors open at 6.30pm and the concert takes place 7pm - 8.15pm. To avoid disappointment, booking is advised. Please telephone Chelmsford Civic Theatre Box Office on 01245 606505 or visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres.
Albert added, "This cherished violin not only came home from the trenches as a soldier's memento, but also survived World War Two when my grandfather lost not one, but two, homes during the Blitz.
"We are so thrilled that this small battered and scratched instrument not only survived, but will be heard again after one hundred years. It is a little sad that Albert will know nothing of this occasion, but we think he would be both mildly amused and hugely moved to hear his beloved violin again, and to feel such a tangible connection. We are looking forward to honouring his memory with this small but important piece of our country's history."
The concert is one of a number of events taking place across Chelmsford to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and to remember all those who made sacrifices. For further information, please visit www.visitchelmsford.co.uk/armistice2018.
Tuesday 6 November 2018