IN this episode of Monday’s Musical Musings, Mr Houlston speaks about the period of Remembrance and one of his favourite memories of this time.

As a trumpet player, Remembrance Day has always been one of the most amazing but nerve-wracking experiences. You might find that an odd thing to say but if you are ever in the position of being asked to perform the ‘Last Post’ at a Remembrance Day event, you will soon understand what I am talking about. The Last Post is synonymous with Remembrance Day but there are so many other pieces of music that represent and honour those who serve to defend our freedoms and way of life.

My choice of music during this period of Remembrance is one that has quite an unusual story to it and is originally a song from the musical, Chess. The music to Chess was written by the two male members of ABBA (Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) and lyricist Tim Rice (long-time collaborator to Andrew Lloyd Webber). The story of Chess involves a politically driven Cold War–era chess tournament between two grandmasters. One is American and the other Soviet Russian. During the musical they fight over a woman; she is the manager to one of the chess players and the lover of the other. The song I have selected is called “Anthem” and the lyrics are as follows:

No man, no madness
Though their sad power may prevail
Can possess, conquer, my country’s heart
They rise to fail
She is eternal
Long before nations’ lines were drawn
When no flags flew, when no armies stood
My land was born

And you ask me why I love her
Through wars, death and despair
She is the constant, we who don’t care
And you wonder will I leave her
I cross over borders but I’m still there now

How can I leave her?
Where would I start?
Let man’s petty nations tear themselves apart
My land’s only borders lie around my heart

This song was written to symbolise the Cold War between nations and to represent the love of one man for his homeland that is beyond the borders drawn by nations. This love is definitely not about sovereignty. It is loving the land upon which one is born and bred, and the connection and belonging to the land that warring nations has devastated.

A number of artists have covered this song, but I think one of the most emotive performances is that of the legendary West End performer Kerry Ellis and the brilliant guitar playing of Brian May (guitarist from Queen). This was performed at the annual British Legion Festival of Remembrance in the Royal Albert Hall in November 2010 and features on Kerry Ellis’ album “Anthems”. Anthems is the debut studio album of Kerry Ellis which was released on 13th September 2010 by Decca Records and produced by Brian May. When listening to this track focus on the emotion of the music, the power in the lyrics, the amazing vocals and the incredible guitar playing from possibly two of the best musicians in their field. What an honour it must have been to play at the Festival of Remembrance and pay tribute to those who have lost their lives in war and conflict. For our tomorrow, they gave their today.

If you have any memories of the period of Remembrance or are proud to have family who served in the World Wars, we would love to hear from you. Please email

Back to all news