Brecht on Love and War

A middle aged man is smoking a cigar on the right hand side of the image. The whole image is black and white. A list of performers names is vertically listed on the left in white text.

The Humanities Cultural Programme is delighted to present, Brecht on Love and War: The Bauhaus Band and Singers. This performance is the culmination of Prof. John Harle’s (renowned English saxophonist and musical director, Guildhall School of Music and Drama) year long visiting fellowship at HCP. Prof. Harle working with Prof. Tom Kuhn (Professor of 20th Century German Literature, Brecht expert and translator, University of Oxford), will present a spectacular multi-media programme of Brecht poems and songs.

In the first half, Marc Almond will sing hit songs and ballads of the 1920s and 30s, from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (‘Mack the Knife’) to Duke Ellington. He is accompanied by the Bauhaus Band and Singers of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, who also provide the music for the rest of the evening.

The climax and culmination of the second half will be a complete performance of Brecht and Hanns Eisler’s multi-media cantata ‘Bilder aus der Kriegsfibel’ (‘Scenes from the War Primer’), a commentary on and critique of the Second World War. Leading into that we have a programme of readings, songs and short films (inspired by Brecht poems), with video art by students of the Ruskin School, and music, both from the period, and also newly commissioned from students of composition and faculty at Oxford and the Guildhall.

Brecht and Eisler’s ‘War Primer’ (1944/57) calls for elaborate musical forces and photographic projections, and is consequently seldom performed. It is a powerful and arresting work that gives us plenty to reflect on today. The rest of the programme is conceived as an essay on the human values of love, compassion and kindness that are imperilled in times of war and conflict. What is that we are fighting for, and how can we maintain our humanity?

The video artists and composers include:

Edmund Adonis, Bliss Ashley, Luke Byrne, Zack Di Lello, Hanns Eisler, Duke Ellington, Christoph Enzel, Eleanor Fineston-Robertson, Friedrich Holländer, Will Inscoe, Dominika Kolenda, Jake Landau, Hugo Max, Adam Possener, Kurt Weill, Isabel Woodings and Eli Zuzovsky.

The ‘War Primer’ will be sung in German, but with English text projections. All other poems and songs are in English.

This will be a unique evening, entertaining and thought-provoking, setting some rarely heard and some entirely new works alongside more familiar classics from the first half of the twentieth century.

To book your ticket, please click here


Prof. John Harle

Prof John Harle is a Humanities Cultural Programme Visiting Fellow working with Prof Tom Kuhn (MML). He is an Ivor Novello award-winning composer, saxophonist, record producer and educator whose work spans across musical genres from classical to contemporary pop. John is the composer of operas, around fifty concert works and over 100 film and TV scores including the theme to BBC1's Silent Witness and the epic score to Simon Schama’s A History of Britain. He is the recipient of an Ivor Novello award and two Royal Television Society awards for Best Music. John was appointed the youngest ever Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, starting the saxophone department at the age of 26, and his teaching has produced many of the leading players of today, including current Decca artist Jess Gillam. At Guildhall, John is Director of The Leadership Academy and he is Professor of Music & Interdisciplinary Practice, leading The Bauhaus Band, a 16-piece ensemble that brings together students from the Jazz, Classical and Composition Departments. John is also a professor of Electronic & Produced Music in the Electronic and Produced Music Department, and of Saxophone in the Wind, Brass, Percussion Department, where he leads the teaching of the Masters saxophone students

Marc Almond

Marc Almond, OBE, is an English singer. Almond first began performing and recording in the synthpop/new wave duo Soft Cell where he became known for his distinctive soulful voice. He has had a diverse career as a solo artist. His collaborations include a duet with Gene Pitney on the 1989 UK number one single "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart". Almond's career spanning over four decades has enjoyed critical and commercial acclaim, and he has sold over 30 million records worldwide.

Prof. Tom Kuhn

Tom Kuhn’s main research interests are in political literature in the 20th century. He has worked particularly on Bertolt Brecht, and is the series editor of the main English-language edition of Brecht’s works. In addition, he has written on exile and anti-fascist literature, and on more recent drama. He is currently leading the ‘Writing Brecht’ project on the cultural transmission of Brecht. Outputs include several major new publications of Brecht’s work in English. He is also working on a book on Brecht’s use of visual art and other pictorial material.