WITH so many singers and musicians performing Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, conductor Sally Mears knows it’s never too early to start rehearsals.

Mrs Mears, from Abingdon, is the conductor for a 50th anniversary performance of the piece at Oxford Town Hall, in St Aldate’s, on Friday, November 23, at 8pm.

The requiem, first performed in 1962, was commissioned for the consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, built after the original 14th century building was destroyed during a German air raid on the city in 1940. Ahead of the Oxford anniversary performance, a workshop rehearsal, featuring about 30 singers, was held at St Giles Church on Saturday.

Mrs Mears said: “War Requiem is a fabulous work to perform and will be performed by 100 singers, with roughly 100 musicians in the orchestra.

“There will also be a treble choir of boys from Wantage Parish Church and some girls from Wood Green School in Witney.

“All proceeds, following the cost of staging the requiem, will go towards the Kianda Foundation in Kenya, who look after the medical care of children who belong to the Tigoni tea pickers.

“Just £50 could cover the medical bills for one child for 10 years. We’re hoping to raise £4,000, as there are 600 seats in the Town Hall.”

In the requiem, the traditional Latin Mass for the Dead is accompanied by nine poems written by First World War poet Wilfred Owen.

Tenor David Gahan, 49, a technology consultant, who lives in West Hanney, near Wantage, said: “I sing in a group called the Saint James’s Singers and I got to hear about the rehearsal at a choral workshop in Oxford.

“War Requiem is a titanic work and it’s something that every choral singer would like to be involved in.

“It’s one of the most moving settings of poetry and music you can find.

“Wilfred Owen is the most famous of the war poets and that’s combined with Britten’s violent but beautiful music.

“The combination is the most heart-rending combination of music and poetry that I know of.

“On the night there could be a big choir, with a full-size orchestra – it’s a huge work and Sally is an inspirational conductor.”

The organist on the night will be Sarah Lister, with the junior choir conducted by Jonathan Cox.

  •  Tickets cost £25 or £20 for concessions. For further information, call 01235 550232 or 01235 521412.