Word of the Month for November 2023


Third Thursday

at St Mary Abchurch, Abchurch Yard, London EC4N 7BA

on Thursday the 16th of November at 6.30 p.m.

We are grateful to ArchiCantiores for organising this event

The event is free to attend. A cash collection will be taken in aid of the Royal British Legion, or you can donate online. 


In honour of those who give their lives for their friends

Sacrifice! Is a Recital Performance with words and music to mark the second Remembrance Day since the start of Russia’s offensive action against the people and culture of Ukraine, with a public reading of the commissioned poem by Paul Munden entitled "Duet" about Steve Burnett’s “Wilfrid Owen” & “Siegfried Sassoon” violins.

The programme presents a sequence of words, motets and songs on the themes of crucifixion, sacrifice and the War Poets.  The theme of each segment of words and reflections is marked by singing a different motet: 

St Peter, St Patrick, St Romero, and the Eucharist, 

Calvary, Deposition from the Cross, and the Virgin Mary

together with the Mass for 4 voices by William Byrd in this, his quattrocentenary year. 

Between each dedicatory motet, ArchiCantiores will present a group of poems and anthems from the time of the Tudor religious conflicts to the present day.

I Died for You

From sacrifice to honour, from slavery to redemption, the sequence of readings will explore the many aspects of War and Reconciliation that combine in the human condition, to stimulate consideration of the personal strengths of hope and compassion which bring triumph in adversity and peace in disturbing times.

Duet, by Paul Munden 

Steve Burnett, a violin maker has crafted three violins from a tree in the grounds of a shell-shock treatment hospital in honour of three renowned First World War poets.

Steve Burnett used a branch from a sycamore tree at Craiglockhart military war hospital, where Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon were treated, to make the instruments.

He also recently completed a violin in honour of poet Robert Graves, who met with Owen and Sassoon in Edinburgh. Owen was killed on 4th November 1918.

The three violins were played together for the first time in October 2017 at Baberton Golf Club in Edinburgh as a plaque was unveiled to mark 100 years since the three poets met there.

© Steve Burnett 

Paul Munden - “Duet”

A two-man crosscut saw

rips its brusque path

through the sprawl

of an ancient sycamore

in the Craiglockhart garden

where Owen and Sassoon

spent shell-shocked leave.

            It's a standard operation,

            midwinter, before the sap

            starts to rise—

            a judicious sacrifice

            for the benefit of the tree—

            the heavy limb

            roped, then slowly cradled 

to the ground. Split, 

its dense pages fall

open like a book: 

one, for the younger man,

to be worked from sup-

ple greenwood in defiance 

of traditional technique; 

            the other must wait

            until seasoned—fit

            to capture a darker tone—

            when the luthier's steel

            will once more nurse

            mute wood's recuperation

            into song. Now they form

a new alliance

as comrades in peace—

two violins unburden-

ing the tumultuous years 

within their shared 

and sculpted grain—

even as the world

            tilts ever again

            towards the pitiful wrath

            of war—that bleak


            to the melodic weave

            of what is spared,

            incumbent, but free.


© Paul Munden 


A Villanelle in Memory of my Uncle Charles 

You really didn’t stand a chance,
fighting on the Allied side,

beneath the leaden skies of France.

For your mother’s land, you took your stance, 
though German on your father’s side. 

You really didn’t stand a chance.

Your German kinsmen made advance 
at Hamel, in that last Springtide, 
beneath the leaden skies of France.

We wander through your graveyard. Glance
at colchicums, their cups held wide, 
–you really didn’t stand a chance! –

mauve colchicums, in sentinel stance, 
bear chalices of sacrifice, 
You really didn’t stand a chance.

When Gerry launched his Spring advance, 
you were fighting your father’s kind.]
You really didn’t stand a chance.
Rest, now, beneath the skies of France


© The Executors of W M Louth-Cook


Composers and poets

Framed by William Byrd, the music of Gibbons, Harker, Parry, Stainer, Sullivan, Tallis, Tomkins, Weelkes, & Monteverdi will set-off poetry & essays of Dylan Thomas, Mari Louth-Cook, Paul Munden, Paul Nash, SS. Patrick & Oscar Romero, Rupert Brook, Thomas More, Wilfrid Owen, and others.


ArchiCantiores Singing for the Architectural Heritage” is a troupe of singers, musicians and wordsmiths who perform words and music live to explore and support architectural heritage.  ArchiCantiores is led by Jonathan Louth, Advisor to the Modern Legacy Project of the Grinling Gibbons Tercentenary.

SOPRANO | Rebecca Ryland-Jones is a singer with The Epiphoni Consort and Thomas Tallis Society and currently principal soprano with ArchiCantiores.

MEZZO SOPRANO | Elizabeth Poole, formerly a member of BBC Singers, is a freelance soloist & singing coach.  She has sung in solo ensemble with ArchiCantiores since 2020.

TENOR | Alexander MacLaren, a research engineer and a member of the Thomas Tallis Society, has been singing with ArchiCantiores since 2022.

BASS-BARITONE | Stephon Umashanger is a graduate of the National Youth Choir who lead the Bass section, who works in the City and performs tonight with ArchiCantiores for the first time. 

POET | Paul Munden from Yorkshire is a former Director of the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Canberra.  “Duet” was commissioned by Jonathan Louth for ArchiCantiores in 2018.

LUTHIER | Steve Burnett is a violinist and luthier working in Edinburgh: he is the creator and maker of the Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Graves violins, intended to promote musicianship and awareness of the Great War among a new generation of young people.The musicians can be contacted by email using the link below. And the same email address can be used to join the ArchiCantiores mailing list.

From the New Testament

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  (John 12:24–25)

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