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On another's sorrow

First line:
Can I see another's woe
author of text

I wrote On another's sorrow on September 2nd 2004, the day after the school siege in Beslan in North Ossetia. Broadcast images of terrified children fleeing to escape Chechen gunmen influenced my perception of Blake's simple song of innocence and gave it deeper significance. It became for me a poem about compassion, about our ability to feel the suffering of others, to be willing to cry 'Never, never can it be' should we become uncaring. How God could allow such suffering then and after the recent tsunami disaster also made me wonder about Blake's serene acceptance of God's presence at times of sorrow. The Archbishop of Canterbury's response, that 'we must focus on a passionate engagement with the lives that are left' seemed to be the best of what we are capable.

My setting starts with a unison chromatic theme in uneasy alternating 7/8 and 5/4. Call and response of sopranos and altos with tenors and basses lead to the first outburst of 'No, never, never can it be.' The material develops and climaxes on the second 'O! never'. The final contemplation of God's presence is hushed and returns to the original theme, but with altered intervals. The final 'O! he gives to us his joy' is sung pianissimo in sustained harmony before returning to the unison of the opening.

from notes by Richard Blackford © 2005


Anthems for the 21st century
SIGCD059Download only


Track 10 on SIGCD059 [4'09] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD059 track 10

Recording date
20 February 2005
Recording venue
Tonbridge School Chapel, Kent, United Kingdom
Recording producer
John H West
Recording engineer
Limo Hearn
Hyperion usage
  1. Anthems for the 21st century (SIGCD059)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: May 2005
    Download only
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