A note from the composer...
Hymn to the Cross was 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. It is a musical reflection on some of the battle’s international and human stories, and honours the subsequent bond and respect between the two countries, with the Glosters’ role commemorated annually in South Korea.
Hymn to the Cross is inspired by the famous Carne Cross (on display in Gloucester Cathedral), carved with a nail by Colonel James Carne, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment, whilst in solitary confinement at a prisoner of war camp, and also by a fluke accident in battle involving the watch of Private David Albert Gardiner 22345661 [1930- 2010], left damaged and engraved with the sign of the cross. This story is told by his niece Lynne Lambert:
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, 10 May2021]
The score is filmic and expansive, portraying hope within the unspeakable bleakness of life in the camp. My father, Bernard Lane, recounted that when on national service he was told that if he was captured and interrogated, one of the recording techniques may be to replace a question with another question, whilst relating that to the original answer, thereby creating a twist in the concept and meaning; this type of questioning and ideological indoctrination is at times symbolized by altered musical phrases.
The use of brass was a central part of the battle’spsychology. In order to counteract the terrible cacophony of Chinese buglecalls at night, Drum Major Buss (front cover) was ordered to play as manyBritish army bugle calls as he could muster, and in particular the ‘LongReveille’; echoes of this can be heard in the repiano cornet during the closingbars. Adapted excerpts are also incorporated from theregimental march of the Glosters TheKinnegad Slashers, and the Korean folk song Arirang.
Hymn to the Cross is the second movement of a three movement work Holding the Hill originally written for orchestra and commissioned by Forest Musical Landscape, premiered by the Royal Forest of Dean Orchestra, conductor Fiona Crawley, St Paul’s Church, Parkend, 23 October 2021.