The Project

The Durham Hymns was a World War One commemorative project delivered by The Northern Regional Brass Band Trust in partnership with Durham County Council.

The Hymns premiered at Durham Cathedral on Saturday 16 July 2016 as the finale of Durham Brass Festival 2016.

The Hymns were specially commissioned from the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy and composers Jessica Curry and Orlando Gough. We also commissioned Jonathan Bates to write a piece solely for brass band - A Prelude to George Butterworth. The premiere marked the centenary of the mid-point of the First World War, offering an opportunity to share and reflect on the historical and contemporary significance of the commemorations.

The performers at the premiere in, were: 

  • The Centenary Brass Band, comprising Bearpark and Esh Brass Band and Durham Miners Association Brass Band plus members of the Reg Vardy Band. Conductor, Alan Fernie
  • The Centenary Choir, drawn from amateur singers from across the county
  • Voices Of Hope, the acclaimed chamber choir led by Simon Fidler 
  • Charlie Hardwick and Phil Corbitt read the linking narration

"This was a performance of distinction, beautifully rehearsed, superbly conducted and magnificently played."   Roderic Dunnet, The Church Times


The hymns remind us not only of those who have died, that the wartime experience of the survivors was both shattering and heroic, but lead us into the everyday experiences of those left behind, their stoicism, courage and resilience. They illuminate and demonstrate the very richness and complexity of our shared history and make us consider the impact of the war on subsequent generations.

As I sat looking out on the village green, I saw a lovely sight which sent me back into the past again. A bunch of men were playing at quoits, a game I have never witnessed since before the First World War. Such peaceful scenes restore one’s hopes again. I pray night and day there will be no more wars, but my faith is shattered when I hear the news. Men are growing so wise in so many ways, yet never wise enough to prevent wars. They will never learn.

From the memoirs of Adeline Hodges from Seaham.