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Bootham School teacher composes requiem to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War

23 September 2014

Bootham School's music teacher has composed a requiem mass to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War in memory of a former pupil who died in the conflict.

Paul Feehan, who is director of music at York’s Bootham School, has written a work entitled Deeds of Angels in memory of Bootham old boy Eric Busvine Butler, who was just 20 years old when he died at the battle of Ypres in 1917.

The work was premiered at a public performance on Sunday 14th September at the Bootham School Theatre.

Mr Feehan explained the significance of the piece against the background of Bootham’s Quaker heritage.

He said: “Just recently we came upon a portrait of Eric Busvine Butler, one of our old scholars who was killed at the battle of Ypres. He was just 20 years old when he died – his young face looking out from this formal military portrait makes a deeply moving image. The requiem is for him and others like him, but it also remembers those who chose another path, that of conscientious objector.

“We are given a powerful reminder of how Bootham, as a Quaker school, viewed these different callings by reading the words of the then headmaster, Arthur Rowntree, who, in 1917 described an old scholars’ reunion thus: ‘There is something inspiring in seeing groups of men, resolute pacifist and determined soldiers utterly divided in the eyes of the world, not merely evading a wrangle, but actively meeting deliberatelyto renew and strengthen old friendships. Misunderstandings banished, we meet at friendship’s call’.”

Bootham’s Archivist, Jenny Orwin, said: “The First World War affected Bootham and its Old Scholars in all sorts of ways.

“Old scholars followed their conscience in different directions, with some joining organisations such as the Friends Ambulance Unit, some being imprisoned as conscientious objectors, and some taking up arms. Over the next four years news about what happened to the school and old scholars will be posted on a display in the school, along with information about the wider context of the war.”

Last year Mr Feehan’s piece, A Christmas Carol, came second out of 300 entries in a music competition hosted by King’s College, Cambridge.

Mr Feehan received recognition when he beat more than 300 applicants from across the UK to come second in the competitions hosted by King’s College, Cambridge last year. His piece, a Christmas Carol, impressed the UK’s most famous and influential composer, John Rutter, among other judges.

For more information about Bootham School and its heritge visit www.boothamschool.com or follow @boothamschool