Creatives and Credits:
Choreographer: Eliot Smith
Composer: Jason Holcomb
Costume & Set Design: Eliot Smith
Premiered: 27 November 2018, The Sage, Gateshead
Funded and Supported by Arts Council England and Northumberland Arts Development
Created in collaboration with The Royal British Legion
Eliot Smith describes the work;
Early in the First World War, soldiers noticed blankets of red poppies were the first sign of life to appear on the devastated battlefields of the Western Front. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae noticed poppies pushing through the newly dug graves. It produced a creative outburst which led John to write the now famous poem called 'In Flanders Fields'.
In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders' fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders' Fields.
The poem inspired an American academic, Professor Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guérin. The Royal British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November that year. The money raised supported the welfare of veterans and provided care for their families. 100 years on and the Poppy Appeal still raises funds for this purpose.
The poppy is not a symbol of death, though some see the colour as emblematic of the blood spilled on the battlefield or a sign of support for war, nor is it a reflection of politics or religion. The poppy is a symbol of Remembrance and Hope and is worn by millions of people. The colour red symbolises the natural colour of field poppies.
POPPY is a retrospective and abstract look at war and conflict and the sacrifices made by those affected and, like John McCrae, it is inspired by the flower. The dance captures the spirit, using contemporary and athletic movement and set to a specially commissioned score - Sacrification, for trombone ensemble and percussion by American trombonist, band leader, and composer Jason Holcomb.
POPPY is dedicated to those currently serving in the Armed Forces, veterans, and their families and dependants. Live on.
Poppies grow in the Community
2018 marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. It is difficult to imagine something truly poetic and beautiful emerging from war and conflict, but the First World War produced some of the most moving representations of human experience from poets and artists of that generation, with each channelling their individual and collective experiences into their chosen art form. The haunting work of war poets, such as Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke, Robert Graves, Isaac Rosenberg, Robert Nichols and John McCrae are deeply personal and etch in the memory. On this centenary Armistice, commemorations have been staged across the UK and around the world to remember the past and to reflect on the sacrifices made for the freedoms enjoyed today.
Locally, Eliot Smith Dance launched the 2018 Royal British Legion Northern Poppy Appeal with an excerpt performance of POPPY and an adaptation entitled "A SEA OF RED DANCERS" at Woodhorn Museum, performed by participants from the local community —all coming together to remember.
Jason Holcomb | Composer
Having trained at The Lionel Hampton School of Music at The University of Idaho, Holcomb’s career has been an eclectic journey for a trombone player raised in The Rocky Mountains. From music director and producer on the high seas for Carnival Cruise Lines to sideman for some of the biggest names in the music industry to recording sessions at Capitol Records in Los Angeles, he’s performed on many of the world’s most prestigious stages.
Holcomb’s time at The Lionel Hampton School of Music offered him the opportunity to participate in the renowned Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival and it was here that he performed with jazz greats such as trumpeter Claudio Roditi, trombonists Bill Watrous, and the late Al Grey of Count Basie’s Orchestra. After a successful stint as music director for Carnival Cruise Lines, Holcomb found himself on the Las Vegas Strip at venues such as Caesar’s Palace, the MGM Grande, and The Bellagio Hotel.
In Las Vegas, Holcomb began working as a freelance musician performing in production shows, with tribute artists, and with headlining acts. He performed with the hit Motown group "The O'Jays", “America's Got Talent” Winner Michael Grimm, the legendary Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, and many others.
In 2009, Holcomb was recruited to record with British pop star Matt Goss (formerly of Bros fame). He recorded the song "Lovely Las Vegas" and was then asked by Goss' manager, Robin Antin (creator of the recording group “The Pussycat Dolls”), to join Goss’ band and began a resident weekly performance at Caesar's Palace Hotel. During the following years he performed regularly in Las Vegas and internationally with Goss, recording at Capitol Records in Los Angeles, performing two sold out shows at The Royal Albert Hall in London and playing numerous television appearances.
After touring The UK, Holcomb decided to relocate to the Northeast of England and began to perform freelance for a number of regional acts while focusing on arranging and songwriting.
In November 2014, Holcomb created the stage show Le SAPE Nocturne and premiered it at The Vermont Hotel in Newcastle Upon Tyne. After a successful opening night the show began its six month residency at the hotel. Based on a group of hand-picked musicians directed by Holcomb and performing unique arrangements the show consistently sold out during its tenure.
Currently the trombonist can be found performing with his jazz/soul quartet, The Society Four, in venues all over the north east, as a guest artist with The Northern Monkey Brass Band, and with the independent folk-rock band Dansi. As an educator he has lectured at The University of Sunderland music department, gives private tuition at The Sage Gateshead, and gives masterclasses on subjects such as improvisation in contemporary musical idioms and performance techniques for brass and commercial horn players. As a composer, Holcomb has been commissioned to write a piece in collaboration with Eliot Smith Dance and The British Royal Legion for a new contemporary dance work called “Poppy”.