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Reviews: War Songs

Julian Mitchell,

Author, Playwright & Scriptwriter

War Songs is cunningly contrived, beginning with Ivor Novello’s blusteringly patriotic Keep the Home Fires Burning, immediately undercut by Kipling’s Tommy. Rosamund is as good an actor as she is a singer, and the spoken parts of the recital are as powerful as the sung.

She continues with similar contrasts between the rhetoric of war and its devastating effect on the people involved, both those who fight and those who sit at home, waiting for news of them in fear and anguish. It moves from the public and political to the private and personal, from poetry and prose to laughter and tears, from Schumann to Kurt Weill and Poulenc.

Thus the popular Sister Susie Sewing Shirts For Soldiers is followed by James Fenton’s devastating poem Cambodia, about the brutal maths of modern warfare. By the time Rosamund gets to Novello’s very different second contribution, We’ll Gather Lilacs, the emotion in the room is overwhelming; the flowers are supposed to be for returning heroes, but we know they will never in fact come home again; the lilacs can only be gathered for their memorials.

This is followed by the uplifting Everyone Sang from Siegfried Sassoon, then the bathos of 'There’s Something About a Soldier', and finally a cry from the ancient past, from Euripides’s Hecuba grief over the terrible tragedies of fallen Troy set a pattern for our whole three thousand years of war-torn civilisation.


Drill Hall Chepstow - 10 November 2019

So polished....So moving - how do you do it without crying? That song reminded me of what happened to my grandfather..So emotional...We were up one minute and down the next...Your German is excellent..

The Tristan Bates Theatre

Delighted to be able to report back to my committee that War Songs at The Tristan Bates Theatre on 30th November raised £352. An appreciative audience loved the improvised single lamp and candle atmosphere (the lights weren't working!)


Celia Imrie

I have had the lasting delight of being transported by War Songs.

Rarely do you witness such a joyful double act.

Ros and Chris work together in truly perfect harmony, as if there was a magic thread between them.

The evenings flow with musical momentum, from sparkling wit, to haunting sadness.

Weaving in and out of melodies and rhythms that surprise and enchant you from the first note to the last chord.

A triumph

I’m going again.

Pip Broughton
Producer, VOX Pictures

Ms. Shelley lifts your hearts, transports you back, imbues you with a sense of loss and love in her fascinating and engaging programme of European son, which stands as a landmark tribute to and memory of the War that shaped our lives today. A triumph.

Richard Digby Day

War Songs is exactly what it says it is: songs of differing moods and styles inspired by conflicts, especially those of the twentieth century. It is simply and directly staged and sung with commanding fervour and variety by Rosamund Shelley.

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