It is one of the most poignant dates of the year: Remembrance Sunday. And, this particular Remembrance Sunday will be even more poignant and even more important as the country comes together to mark 100 years since the end of WWI.
The day will be respectfully marked by moving ceremonies held at official war memorials in many villages, towns and cities across our Kingdom. It is a day where we remember and commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth civic and military service-men and women in both World Wars and in other conflicts since. It is an incredibly moving day and one that brings the past very much into our present.
Some months ago, whilst rummaging in a box of old programmes and college brochures found in the back of a dusty store cupboard, we discovered that our college played a significant part in supporting returning local war heroes from both world wars. The documents feel delicate and incredibly fragile, like old paper does. The first one is a concert programme dated 17th March 1917, when our college organised an event in The Albert Hall, Leeds, to aid a local hostel that was helping to support blind soldiers and sailors.
The second one is dated July, 1944 and goes into great detail about concerts held that year to raise funds for Youth Welfare and The Merchant Navy. It tells us that In May 1944 our college held a concert in Leeds Town Hall and raised over £639 (the equivalent of around £27,000 in today’s money). Then a few months later, in July 1944, they held a second concert and raised a hugely impressive £2,437 (the equivalent of around £100,000 today).
Following the enormous success of these two concerts, where over 400 voices from “massed choirs of Leeds and district” came together, along with “solo artists of national reputation,” the college received urgent calls for help from two other local charities; The Leeds Wounded Warriors Welfare and The Leeds Forces’ Hospitality Fund.
So, our college rallied again and on the 23rd and 24th September 1944, it held two more concerts to support its local war heroes.
It is incredibly touching to discover the effort our college went to, to show its support, pride and patriotism for our local heroes. The original programme states:
“WE MUST DO MORE THAN OUR BEST FOR THE WOUNDED SOLDIERS.”
And, The Yorkshire College of Music and Drama – known back then as The Leeds College of Music – did just that.
We will be wearing our poppies with extra pride this year.