PROGRAMME NOTES

Tiananmen

1989 (1990)

Double Choir and Tubular Bells

Tiananmen 1989 was commissioned by The London Concert Choir with funds from Greater London Arts. The first performance was given at St. John’s, Smith Square, under Gregory Rose on 12 July 1990.

The work was designed as a tribute, on the first anniversary, to the students who were killed in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. The composer compiled a text based on documentary sources relating dates and events as they occurred. Almost every note of the music is taken from four melodies some of which were sung or heard at the time – the Internationale; Beethoven’s Ode to Joy; a Chinese melody called Heirs of the Dragon; and Jesu lover of my soul (not connected with the event). The austere choral setting is delivered rather like a series of news bulletins evoking resonance in voices or bells. Instead of intruding on the agony of the victims, in the manner of TV news bulletins these days, the treatment is deliberately objective. After the first performance The Independent felt the composer ’got the formula right’ with ‘no hint of exploitation’.

Saturday, April the fifteenth:
White paper flowers for a politician's death -
"A match to a barrel of gunpowder."
Monday, April the seventeenth:
Wreaths at the Heroes' Monument,
And the sound of the Internationale,
In Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
Processions, marches, demonstrations:
"China has waited years for democracy."
Clashed at Zhongnanhai.
Friday, April the twenty-first:
A hundred thousand
In Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
"Rise up, you who refuse to be slaves!"
Tuesday, April the twenty-fifth:
Dictators wield great power, but,
"If you let the people speal,
The heavens will not fall down."
Massive parade along Chang'an,
To Zhongnanhai,
And Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).

© 2008-17 Peter Dickinson

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