On Monday 15th January, a gala concert conducted by Edward Gardner and featuring members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Festival Hall, London will raise funds for the Refugee Council Children’s Section. Tickets are £15 – £75.
The Refugee Council’s Children’s Section works to safeguard and improve the lives of refugee children in England (well over 3,000 children sought refuge in the UK in 2016, forced to flee their homes due to conflict, political instability or persecution and arrived in UK completely alone
The programme includes Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto performed by Hilary Hahn, and a performance of Michael Tippett’s ‘magnum opus’ A Child of Our Time.
Tippett’s seminal work of 1941 (premiered in 1944) is the product of the composer’s deeply held pacifism, emotional problems brought on by the breakdown of an intense personal relationship, and the aesthetic standpoint which emerged as a result of the therapy Tippett actively sought out.
A Child of Our Time is inspired by an event now commonly held to be the pre-cursor to the start of the Holocaust – Kristillnacht.
The shooting of a German official by the 17 year old Jew Herzchel Grynszpan in Paris in November 1938. Two days of violence against Jewish families, their homes, businesses and synagogues followed, in which 90 Jews were killed, and 1000 Jewish men sent to deportation camps.
The libretto of A Child of Our Time deliberately obscures the names involved in the assassination, broadening the work to include all people who are oppressed.
The universal message in this work – potently represented in the oratorio by the inclusion of spirituals – remains as critical now as it was when it was premiered in 1944.
In a noisy world where media agendas fuel an evermore reductive news diet skewed by distractions and populated by perniciously misleading sound-bites, the plight of desperate souls in search of a new life is often overlooked.
In this country, Brexit subsumes everything. We happily permit ourselves to concentrate on our own pre-occupations because that is what the media leads us to believe we should be doing.
Sometimes it takes the prospect of a performance of something like Tippett’s A Child of Our Time for us to be reminded that society has fallen into this isolationist kind of trap before.
The Refugee Council website provides a handy definition of some of the often erroneously used words: asylum seekers are those have made an application and are waiting to hear a result; refused asylum seekers are those who have had their application turned down; refugees are those whose asylum applications have been accepted by our government.
Some of the assumptions we all unwittingly make about asylum seekers are also challenged on the website. Some of those clarifications will be real eye openers to the majority.
A gift for future generations
The concert on Monday 15th January is there to raise money. But it also provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the work of the Refugee Council and, give space to some definitions which aren’t made clear anywhere near enough in our on-demand and apparently overly busy world.
That Tippett’s A Child of Our Time 74 years on work still resonates doesn’t really surprise. It is a stunning and, as you’d expect, inclusive work – Tippett’s gift for future generations. It’s also a testament to what great art can achieve and, why we need: it provokes thought.
That the Refugee Council concert on Monday 15th January at Royal Festival Hall is so apt is an unexpectedly chilling indictment of where we are as a society today.
- All performers are donating their services for free for this concert.
- Tickets are available on the Southbank Centre website.
- For this blog post I’ve been listening to a live performance of Tippett’s A Child of Our Time given by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Colin Davis, available on Spotify