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A new hymn for Armistice 100 – First public performance at York Minster and St Paul’s Cathedral

9 Nov, 2018

By Sharon Atkinson

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An award-winning new hymn specially written for Armistice will be performed for the first time at both York Minster and St Paul’s Cathedral’s services commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War on Sunday 11 November.

The hymn, ‘Hope for the World’s Despair’, by Ally Barrett and set to the tune ‘Love Unknown’ by John Ireland, won first prize in the Hymns of Peace competition run by Jubilate Hymns – a foundation that promotes music for worship.

Ally’s hymn was chosen from 147 entries from across the UK. Eight entries made it onto the shortlist that went before the Jubilate judging panel on 20 June.

Ally had not originally intended to enter the competition as she was acutely aware of the complexity of composing for an occasion that is so deeply felt. She said:

“I then realised that I wanted to try to find some words that could be sung by a really broad spectrum of people, and yet express something fresh and perhaps a bit challenging. I wanted to recognise those whose battle scars are invisible, but life changing, and who may find Remembrance particularly difficult.  We’ve come a long way since 1918 in our understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. For the hymn as a whole I started from the brokenness of the world, and our response to this, both in prayer and in action.”

For Canon Peter Moger, Acting Dean of York and a member of the Hymns of Peace judging panel, Ally’s hymn stood out from an outstanding field of entries.  He said:

“Ally’s hymn was chosen for the skilful simplicity of the lyrics while addressing some major topics, married with the carefully applied resonances of sacrifice in the chosen tune.  We were impressed by the range of themes covered, from issues of contemporary conflict, political power, remembrance and personal responsibility.  In particular, the fourth verse about post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans impressed the panel as filling a vital gap in our Remembrance repertoire.”

Sunday 11 November will mark the first public performances of the hymn by the choirs and congregations at York Minster and St Paul’s Cathedral.

Ally’s hymn has also been recorded and released as a single, produced by Mark Edwards and performed by Jonathan Veira and the All Souls Orchestra, with an accompanying reflective video drawing out the themes of the lyrics.

Biographical details – Ally Barrett

Ally Barrett is an Anglican priest and Director of Pastoral Studies at Westcott House Anglican Theological College, Cambridge. She was in parish ministry for 11 years, and also spent a year as a children’s minister. In addition to writing hymns, she writes about vocation, all age worship and preaching, and the relationship between mission and worship. In her spare time she paints, and enjoys experimental vegan cooking.

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