A note from the composer...
Holding the Hill is written to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Imjin River, Korea, 22 - 25 April 1951,specifically the role taken by the Gloucestershire Regiment (Glosters) and in particular soldiers from the Forest of Dean. They were a close group of soldiers; many of whom were on national service, had not heard of Korea and were expecting their posting tobe something of a fun adventure. Throughout the music, I have aimed to portray this close sense of comradeship, whilst never leaving behind the horror of what occurred during that time. It is impossible to do musical justice – merely to represent, respect and honour from a personal compositional perspective. I am grateful to the many people who shared with me their knowledge and expertise when I was undergoing research for the composition.
The music is in three movements and is a musical reflection on some of the international and human stories of the battle. The first movement, Hill 235, represents the role of the Forest of Dean Glosters in action and the aftermath. The second, Hymn to the Cross is inspired by the famous Carne Cross, carved by Colonel Carne whilst imprisoned, also a fluke accident in battle with a watch which was left damagedand engraved with the sign of the cross. The third, Legacy, reflects on the soldiers’ homecoming and the legacy left by the battle.
Narration is also incorporated; a poem especially written by my friend and colleague Jennifer Henderson, and by Private DavidGardiner 22345661 [1930-2010], who was one of the Forest of Dean Glosters and fought in action.
The first movement, Hill 235 (the hill where much of the battle took place, now known as Gloster Hill), broadly represents something of the battle itself, depicted by a musical mirage heard four times to signify the four days, followed by the unspeakably long and arduous trek to a prisoner of war camp. Chinese bugle calls were one of the resounding sounds of the battle, especially a cacophony echoed at night. This is musically reflected by heterophonic trumpets, higher woodwind and percussion, placed around the venue. It was not possible to find proof of the original bugle calls despite assistance from military music experts, and these are therefore my own representation, slightly related to examples heard in a YouTube feature [1:40] which discusses the recent revival of Chinese military bugle calls. Drum Major Buss (pictured on the front cover)was ordered to counteract these Chinese bugle calls by playing as many British army bugle calls as he could muster, and in particular the ‘Long Reveille’, which is also musically portrayed. Much of this movement is built on the intervals 2, 3and 5 (‘Hill 235’).
The second movement, Hymn to the Cross, is a hymn based around the famous Carne cross, and the story of author Lynne Lambert’s uncle Private David Albert Gardiner 22345661 [1930- 2010]:
During my uncle’s time in captivity, he held on to his precious watch for spiritual strength. It had been given to him by his aunt the day he left and he only wore it once - which just happened to be on the first day of battle. It smashed against the rocks as he was escaping from Castle Hill as he dived to avoid a line of bullets. The same line of bullets killed his Company Major. The impact as he crashed to the ground left a cross shape broken into the glass of the watch. He was so ill in camp from beri-beri that for a long time he could only move around on his hands and knees. He took the cross as a sign and it gave him strength to survive. [Lynne Lambert, email to the composer, 10 May 2021]
The music juxtaposes the monotony and bleakness of life in the camp. There is also use of question and answer which represents something of the questioning and ideological indoctrination to which the prisoners were subjected. It was my father, Bernard Lane, who remembered that during his own time in national service, he was told that should he ever be captured, it is likely that one of the techniques used would be to replace a question given by the authorities with another question in the recording, whilst relating that to the first answer so that there was a twist in the concept and meaning, making it out to be something quite different. In some places I have depicted this musically.
The last movement, Legacy, brings us up to date with the 70th anniversary whilst still connecting the music to the past. The structure is inspired by a charity run undertaken by Maurice Brisland in memory of his Great-Uncle, Sergeant Sidney John Brisland 89375 [1925-1956]. Maurice ran a specific number of miles for five days over the weekend of the 70thanniversary in 2021, representing four days of battle with the fifth signifying the soldiers’ time spent in captivity, and this is exactly represented in the five sections of the movement. Musical images of the legacy of this battle (often known as the ‘forgotten battle’) include the regimental march of the Glosters, the traditional folk tune The Kinnegad Slashers, and the South Korean national folk song Arirang, reflecting an appreciation of the sacrifices made on their behalf by the people of South Korea.
Liz Lane, September 2021