Sunday, 27 July 2008

When I was Hungry ...

On Thursday evening my elder daughter took part in a performance of At the Border, an oratorio composed as a sequel to Tippett's A Child of our Time, which she had performed at Easter.

The oratorio was composed by Richard Barnard and written by Peter Spafford, in collaboration with students from my daughter's school. It is, according to the programme, a piece about the effects of ethnic hatred and violence whose aim is to help the students, and the audience, to a better understanding of the plight of those who are forced to flee their homes as a result of war, political oppression or religious persecution.

I was moved by the performance which skillfully combined what I imagine to be the traditional oratorio form with children's songs, an electro-acoustic piece using sound recordings taken at Temple Meads station, a traditional English ballad and a Zimbabwean chorus. The script dealt sympathetically yet honestly with the reasons that force refugees to leave their homes and the reception they receive in the communities in which they seek refuge.

Back in my country, men with guns.
Here in my country, men with forms.

To flee with your life from a land of pain
To lose your life in a land of pain.

In no man's land I become no one,
Future barred as my past fades.

It made for uncomfortable listening but, here atleast, the tide turns when a refugee is offered a token of acceptance, a cauliflower from an allotment!

I can never grasp your way of life.
Yet it clings to my skin changing what is within.
Once there were two countries,
The one in my heart, the one where I live.
Now there are two countries in my heart.

We shall find peace.
We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

I always enjoy listening to my daughters perform, even if they are 'only' one musician in an orchestra. I played the piano at school which, compared to the violin and viola my girls play, is generally a solitary instrument, and I have always envied them the experience of being part of a larger sound.

PS For Steve Broadway's account of the same performance see at the border.

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