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An oratorio for our times by Antony Pitts remixed with Biblical narration by David Suchet, Jerusalem-Yerushalayim is an extraordinary musical cross between Handel’s Messiah, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and classic rock anthems, and tells simply but powerfully the Old Testament story of Jerusalem—in modern English but with ancient Hebrew names for familiar Biblical characters and places. Performed by Tonus Peregrinus and friends with a cast of outstanding singers and players.
In 2006 the composer Antony Pitts was inspired to begin sketching an oratorio that would tell, simply but powerfully, the Biblical story of Jerusalem—to audiences familiar with both great classical oratorios and popular musicals, and regardless of denomination or religious background, cultural perspective or political viewpoint. The result is an oratorio-musical with a libretto based on texts from the Tanakh (the 'Old' Testament) laid out in a narrative order, and with the ancient Hebrew names for familiar Biblical characters and places (e.g. Avraham)—thus the double-barrelled title Jerusalem-Yerushalayim. The Biblical story of the city is told through twelve windows or snapshots in which Jerusalem is either the subject or the background; mirroring the four quarters of Jerusalem’s ‘Old City’, these are divided into four sections of three movements: the city in patriarchal times; the city as the capital of Israel and then of Judah up to its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC; the city rebuilt under occupation until its destruction by the Romans in 70AD; the city as prefigured by prophets and unfolded in history; and a coda looking forward to Isaiah’s vision of the wolf living together with the lamb.
The libretto was compiled by the composer and is drawn as directly as possible, given the limitations of English translation and the musical setting itself, from Biblical texts—texts which are both historical and prophetic, full of archetypes and resonances, and are at the same time about real people with their dreams, tragedies, and hopes. The music is new, but has strong historical echoes including familiar Western musical references such as Tallis’s Lamentations, Purcell’s My beloved spake, Handel’s Zadok the Priest, and Parry’s I was glad—as well as various resonances from far outside the classical canon. In terms of practicality and approachability, and even structure, Jerusalem-Yerushalayim is modelled on Handel’s Messiah, and designed for widespread use: by professional vocal ensembles or amateur choirs, or a mix of both—with SATB soloists and flexible accompaniment.
Unusually, the first part of the oratorio to be completed was the conclusion—the choral coda entitled The Peace of Jerusalem. It was premiered by the Choir of London, conductor Jeremy Summerly, in Israel in April 2007, and has since had performances in the UK by Tonus Peregrinus at the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, by the Elysian Singers under the direction of the composer in the City of London, and by The Song Company in Australia in 2017. Tonus Peregrinus recorded the coda for Hyperion on an album called Alpha and Omega, and in June 2008 gave the world premiere of the complete oratorio at Opera Fringe in Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Northern Ireland—to a standing ovation. The revised and expanded version of the oratorio was recorded in October 2011, followed by the US premiere in May 2012 which was given by Choral Arts Cleveland under conductor Martin Kessler—in the presence of the composer.
1equalmusic © 2017
En 2006 le compositeur, Antony Pitts, a eu l’inspiration de commencer à esquisser un oratorio qui raconterait en toute simplicité mais profondément l’histoire biblique de Jérusalem—à l’intention d’auditeurs connaissant bien et les grands oratorios classiques et les comédies musicales, sans distinction de secte, de milieu religieux, de perspective culturelle ou de point de vue politique. Il en résulte un oratorio/une comédie-musicale dont le libretto est basé sur des textes du Tanakh (l’Ancien Testament) disposés par ordre de la narration, et qui se sert des noms hébreux anciens pour les personnages et les endroits bibliques bien connus (par exemple: Avraham)—et ainsi le titre à rallonge Jérusalem-Yerushalayim. L’histoire biblique de la ville est racontée à l’aide de douze vitres ou photos dont Jérusalem est soit le sujet soit le fond; elles reflètent les quatre quartiers de la «vieille ville» de Jérusalem, et elles sont divisées en quatre sections comprenant chacune trois mouvements.
1equalmusic © 2017
Français: Rosemary Pitts