Teenager Mitchell Brown composes special piece to honour Anzacs

Concert: Mitchell Brown spent just under a year composing the musical arrangement set to the poem, In Flanders Field, written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae during World War I. Photo: Scott Calvin.
Concert: Mitchell Brown spent just under a year composing the musical arrangement set to the poem, In Flanders Field, written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae during World War I. Photo: Scott Calvin.

Seventeen-year-old Taree musician Mitchell Brown has risen to the challenge of composing a musical arrangement that will be performed by a four-part choir and concert band this Sunday, October 7.

In Flanders Field is set to the words from the poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McRae during World War I, and will be presented at a special Manning Valley Concert Band concert marking the centenary of Anzac.

The teenager has been a member of the band for five years and was approached by the band director Roger Griffiths, who has been planning the Centenary of Anzac Concert for a couple of years.

“He wanted to use the poem In Flanders Fields in this concert and asked me if I was up for a challenge,” said Mitchell. 

“The words are very powerful, and familiar to most people from Anzac Day ceremonies. I was honoured to be asked so I started working on it immediately.”

The words are very powerful, and familiar to most people from Anzac Day ceremonies. I was honoured to be asked so I started working on it immediately.

Mitchell Brown

It took Mitchell just under a year to put together and runs for about six and a half minutes.

He said the piece goes through a number of moods and ideas.

“The vocal parts are very reflective and respectful and the band’s theme can be quite heroic.

“I tried to include the sounds of the battlefield like gunfire and there is a trumpet solo that includes The Last Post.

“There is a passage that has been inspired by the sounds of church organ and church bells and a clarinet solo that sounds a little like a lone piper solo.

“I tried to include all the emotions I feel about the war itself – the incredible loss of life, the sadness for those left behind and honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Mitchell was guided throughout the process by Roger, who showed him how best to write for the instruments in the band.

“Every instrument has it’s own range and sound, so you have to try and write parts that suit their instrument and is enjoyable for the player themselves. That was the biggest challenge to overcome.”

His mum, Tanya, who studied composition as a major at the Newcastle Conservatorium, also gave some assistance. “Mum helped me write the vocal hymn over the words of the poem. 

Manning Valley Concert Band during a recent performance at St John's Anglican Church in Taree.

Manning Valley Concert Band during a recent performance at St John's Anglican Church in Taree.

“You have to try and stay true to the originally meter of the prose or it can change the meaning of the verse entirely. We wanted to stay respectful to the poet himself. 

“Then I composed the parts for the concert band and the instrumental theme for the band.”

It isn’t Mitchell’s first experience composing.

“I’ve been composing for piano for some time and last year I wrote the first movement for a Sonata for Flute and Clarinet with String Quartet. 

“I also wrote some Theme and Variation exercises last year. I compose all the time. Some of it turns out well and sometimes it just doesn’t work at all.”

He said it feels amazing to know the piece will be performed.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity and to the members of the Manning Valley Concert Band who will perform it. 

“Our local Kantabile Choir will perform the vocal parts. They have been rehearsing it for a number of weeks and sound great! 

I tried to include all the emotions I feel about the war itself – the incredible loss of life, the sadness for those left behind and honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Mitchell Brown

“I was honoured that Mr Griffiths thought I was even capable of producing something worth performing, I hope I have done the project justice.”

In Flanders Field is just one part of the music program planned for the 100 Years of Anzac concert.

Roger has arranged several pieces including songs for the solo vocalists Jodi Cooper, Amanda Lees, Mick Standen and George Hoad

The band will perform an arrangement of Waltzing Matilda Roger wrote for the Australian Army Band a number of years ago as well as music by Kenneth Alford, Gustav Holst, Franz von Suppe and Maurice Jarre. 

The concert will also include dancers, a string quartet lead by Mrs. Carmel Brown and Manning Valley Pipe Band.

Mitchell started playing music from a young age and can play piano, clarinet and saxophone. He joined Manning Valley Concert Band when he was 12.

“They are a very capable group of musicians. Everyone works hard at their parts and under Roger’s expertise it all comes together to make a brilliant sound. I am very proud of our band.”

The concert is on at the Manning Entertainment Centre this Sunday, October 7, at 2pm. Tickets are $20 and available through www.themec.com.au.