Orlando Tenebrae

2010

SATB choir, 25′

includes
O vos omnes (2006) 4′
Aestimatus sum (2010) 4′
Ecce quomodo moritur justus (2010) 3′

Texts:
Liturgical (Tenebrae responsories)
Adonis: from The Desert
Visar Zhiti: Love
Ken Saro Wiwa: The True Prison
Wu Mei: The Agreement

O vos omnes commissioned by Rev. Toddy Hoare; f.p. Chantage (James Davey, director), St Dunstan-in-the-West, London, 24th January 2007.

Ecce quomodo moritur justus commissioned by Orlando Chamber Choir with funding from the BBC Performing Arts Fund; f.p. Orlando Chamber Choir (James Weeks, director), St Mary Aldermary, London, 24th July 2010.

The complete Orlando Tenebrae commissioned by Orlando Chamber Choir; f.p. Orlando Chamber Choir (James Weeks, director), St Andrew, Holborn, London, 17th March 2011.

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There is a great upsurge of human-inflicted suffering in the world today: our capacity for inhumanity towards each other (to say nothing of other living creatures) seems to be boundless. I turned to the texts of the Tenebrae as a way to deal with this ever-more pressing subject in a timeless way, trying to avoid contemporary agitprop but at the same time removing them from an explicitly Christian context. I found several Tenebrae texts that speak of oppression in a general sense, and to them added four poems from Fire in the Soul, a collection of poems from around the world on the subject of human rights, published by New Internationalist.

Like the service of Tenebrae, Orlando Tenebrae is structured as a ritual, and similarly moves between different modes of delivery, from free speech to singing to chanted speech in a continuous loop. The modern poems are simply read, and the Tenebrae responsories are both read rhythmically in English and sung in Latin.

Again, like the traditional music of the Tenebrae rites, the music of Orlando Tenebrae is sparse and pared-down, divided into panels separated by silences. The materials are archetypes – static chordal declamation, lamenting descents, a sudden leap at the word ‘liber’ (‘free’) – familiar from hundreds of years of musical tradition, given a new context in this piece.

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