Warwick string ensemble remembers fallen Leamington soldier who was talented composer

The String Chamber Ensemble
The String Chamber Ensemble
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String players from a Warwick-based group have been rehearsing and studying an elegy in honour of a Leamington composer who was killed during the First World War.

Lt Francis Warren Purcell, of the 2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment, died on the third day of the Battle of the Somme on July 3 1916.

He had gained a scholarship to London’s Royal College of Music when he was just fifteen years old and was the son of Walter Warren, a Leamington organist and music teacher, who lived in Holly Walk.

Today, a cup is presented at the annual Leamington Music Festival in Francis’ honour.

The String Chamber Ensemble, directed by Val Brodie, have been rehearsing an Elegy written in his memory in 1917 by the then young, but later very eminent, composer Herbert Howells.

Mrs Brodie said: “We are working on this piece to honour a gifted young composer, a sensitive young man who served his country and who came from the town of Leamington which we all of us know so well’. Lt Warren lived in Holly Walk and his father was organist at the Catholic church and a teacher of music’.

“The players and myself have been affected both by learning about Francis’s life but also by playing this tragically expressive and haunting music’.

“It features a viola solo played by Jane Clarke - the young soldier was a student of viola at the Royal College of Music - together with a string quartet, and a string orchestra.

“Francis had had a bright future ahead of him. Staff and fellow students at the music college were deeply affected by his death.

“They found it hard to accept that someone they knew was ‘lost’ was dead on the field of battle but never identified.”

Lt Warren is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial along with over 70,000 others whose bodies were never identified.

A Cross of Remembrance from Warwickshire Musicians has been laid on the memorial and the group has also sent a page for the Memorial Book at Thiepval to tell visitors about his life.

The ensemble meets at Warwick Friends Meeting House on Friday mornings from 10am to noon.

Anybody who would like to know more about the elegy can call Mrs Brodie on 812179.