Sunday, July 17, 2005


This from Ekklesia:

The first night of the BBC Promenade Concerts, considered to be the greatest classical music festival in the world, began at the Royal Albert Hall last night [15 Jyly 2005] with a stirring performance dedicated to those who died in the London bombing on 7 July 2005 – and with a work emotionally connected to those terrible events.

Michael Tippett’s anti-war oratorio A Child Of Our Time asks why humankind inflicts such brutality on itself. There is a commemorative peace plaque dedicated by its composer just yards away from the site of the Tavistock Square bomb that killed fifteen people last week.

The concert programme had been drawn up months ago, but the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s conductor for the night, Roger Norrington, drew attention to the poignancy both of Tippett’s work and also of Edward Elgar’s Cockaigne (cockney) Overture, ‘In London Town’.

Norrington told concert-goers and a large television and radio audience that in spite of the recent tragic events, he hoped Britain’s capital would remain an open city, “tolerant towards everyone accept those who come here to kill us.”

Michael Tippett, who died in 1998, is one of Britain’s most distinguished composers. The centenary of his birth is being celebrated this year. He was a lifelong campaigner for peace and justice, and in 1994 he unveiled a granite stone, barely 100 yards from the site of the bus explosion, to commemorate conscientious objectors to war. He served a three-month prison sentence himself for refusing military service.

A Child Of Our Time, written in 1944, takes its cue from the events leading up to the terrible 1938 Nazi kristallnacht pogrom, notably the assassination of a German diplomat by a 17-year-old Jewish boy.

Loaded with both biblical language as well as Jungian imagery, the libretto (text) also features five powerful African-American spirituals instead of Bach-like chorales. It is perhaps the first post-Christendom oratorio (opera-like work on a religious theme), reflecting Tippett’s alienation from what he saw as the patriotic militarism of prevailing Christian mores.

However, there is also a strong theme of hope: “Here is no grieving, but an abiding hope”, sing the soloists and chorus towards the end. Tippett’s integration of what are popularly called Negro Spirituals (‘Steal Away to Jesus’, ‘Nobody Knows the Trouble I see, Lord’, ‘Go Down, Moses’, ‘O, By and By’ and ‘Deep River’) was daring at the time, demonstrating a deep respect for black resistance to slavery and oppression.

In 2001 Tippett’s orchestration of the Spirituals was sung in a rapidly and drastically amended programme for the Last Night of the Proms, which came just four days after the 9/11 twin towers attacks in New York. Last night’s precise but emotional performance of A Child Of Our Time was given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with international singers Indra Thomas, Christine Rice, Ian Bostridge and Willard White as the soloists.

The BBC Proms season continues until Saturday 10 September, and features 74 concerts plus ancillary events.

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Saturday, July 02, 2005


Can't say that there's much in the Live 8 line up that thrills me musically, with the exception, perhaps, of the mercurial Bjork. But the Make Poverty History cause of debt relief, trade justice and appropriate aid for the worlds' poorest nations is one I am more than happy to endorse.

"When the power of love becomes stronger than the love of power, we will have peace," declared Jimi Hendrix. Well, it might take a bit to get there, but there's no point not starting.

Play on.

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