Scots superstar Barbara Dickson joins cast of WWI tale
On a French battlefield amidst the horror of the bloody Battle of the Somme a young Scottish life was snuffed out leaving a family mourning the death of their 16-year-old son.
And a century on her family’s tragedy has drawn Edinburgh-based singing superstar Barbara Dickson to perform in Far, Far From Ypres – a critically acclaimed show to mark the centenary of World War One.
“David Dickson was my father’s eldest brother, he was just a baby when David was killed,” Barbara explained. “In my family there has always been this great love and affection for this poor young man who tragically died so young.”
The show, which has a cast of 26 performers, including other Scottish folk scene favourites such as Siobhan Miller, Dick Gaughan, Stephen Quigg, was devised, written and produced by Ian McCalman of folk group The McCalmans to highlight the unique insight the songs offer into the life of a soldier.
It shares the hope, suffering, endurance and fear associated with the war through the eyes of fictional, prototypical soldier, Jimmy MacDonald.
Barbara, who will be singing Keep The Home Fires Burning and The Roses of Picardy, added: “There is a juxtaposition between happiness and sadness – a happy song in a tragic situation is absolutely heartbreaking and this is what you get in this show – there is visuals of awful tragic things and there is a jolly song playing.
“They had to keep going and the horror of the trenches was just endured by all these young men. It’s completely awful what happened to them but the heroic sacrifice they made, this is for them. You can’t help to be truly moved by it.”
And it is the raw tragedy and the desperation of position the men found themselves in that Ian wanted to capture.
“This is not a manipulative piece but it is incredibly emotional,” he said. “All the cast is crying at the end of every performance - we’re not actors it is just very moving.
“It tells the facts and that is tragic.
“During the war, soldiers sang together to bond and alleviate fear.
“However, looking back on the music of the war today, we can see how attitudes towards the conflict changed over its course.
“From the early, jingoistic songs that promoted recruitment and betrayed an innocence about the reality of war, through to the resignation, black humour and resentment present in the later songs, the progression reflects the bitterness which grew among troops as they became disenchanted.”
Narrated by BBC Radio Scotland presenter Iain Anderson and delivered by WW100 Scotland in partnership with Legion Scotland and Poppyscotland, the Far, Far From Ypres tour will visit ten venues across the country, using the songs of the trenches to tell the story of the Scottish war effort.
The closing performance will take place at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Armistice Day.