Had 26-year-old Dominic Mason been born 100 years earlier, he could very well have been marching off to war.
His would have been the generation that saw their potential, their once bright futures ended or inextricably altered by the horror of the trenches, the bullets, the blood and the sacrifice.
Instead Dominic has been able to immerse himself in the war though the safety of history books, of pictures and of poems.
“It is natural to draw parallels,” he reflects. “I am 26. I am of an age that I would have gone.”
Composer and musician Dominic began researching the Great War after a piece he started last summer gradually evolved into a way of marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
Called Valour, it will receive its musical premiere in the Library of Birmingham on November 9, Remembrance Sunday.
“When I started, it it was about focusing on the family left behind after someone had died. Then I realised it was the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War.
“It developed from this very small piece to one that dealt with emotions to do with conflict and loss – and with courage.”
It is now seven movements long, beginning with A Mother’s Love and ending with Soaring Through The Clouds.
The project has expanded to include artwork as well with artist Eileen Bunn creating original paintings to accompany each movement.
There is also a spoken word element. Dominic writes poetry as well as music and will have a friend of his reading a poem written for a young soldier during the performance.
Its companion poem is a recording of an older man looking back over his life. For that Dominic decided he wanted “someone with an authoritative voice”...so he asked Sir Derek Jacobi.
“He was the perfect fit. I didn’t think he would be available or willing to do it but as soon as I contacted his agent they said he was really interested in it.”
Barely able to get over his surprise at securing such an acting luminary to read his work, Dominic said that working with him was “quite surreal”.
“I was nervous about giving him the text because he has done Shakespeare, he has a Laurence Olivier Award. I thought he might have said it was a bit amateur. But he was really positive about it and seemed quite impressed, so I was really pleased.
“And he delivered the takes perfectly.”
While working on Valour, Dominic went to museums and libraries to expand what he knew about this period of history, visiting the Imperial War Museum and The Victoria Cross Museum and reading the work of the war poets.
“I had a kind of basic knowledge of things to do with it but I really got my teeth stuck into it. There is far more information out there than I could ever consume but I have tried my best. And I think the more you read about it the more you reflect.”
Though Dominic will be performing with a small ensemble at the Library, he can often be found giving piano recitals around the Midlands.
He has been playing since he was a boy growing up in Aldridge. His first exposure to performing music was singing in choirs. By the age of 13 he was writing solo piano pieces for himself.
He now plays a variety of instruments including the ukulele, guitar and cello, which he is just learning.
He studied music at the University of Wolverhampton and has taken master-classes in composition at Birmingham Conservatoire.
Though he hopes to build up his composing career – he has just been commissioned to score a feature film being made by a UK director next year – he also has a job working for a Birmingham law firm at present.
“I work as an administrative officer/clerk. I am doing it to tide me over.
“At the moment I couldn’t class myself as a (full-time) composer because I still have my day job, but composing is a job I love to do.”
* For tickets to the premiere of Valour in the Library of Birmingham on November 9 at 2pm look up www.birmingham-box.co.uk/event/valour-by-dom-mason/ or call the box office on 0121 245 4455.Proceeds from ticket sales with be donated to armed forces charity organisations. Valour is currently being recorded and should be released next month. For details look up www.dommason.com