"Blackford is one of our most celebrated and versatile composers ... but this could well be the piece that truly establishes him in the concert hall. Undoubtedly the most significant event in the UK marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11 will be the world premiere of Richard Blackford's Not in Our Time, written both to mark the centenary of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and, in Blackford's words, to tackle the universal theme of how religion is used as a pretext or justification for war. He believes that there are villains on both sides in the so-called War on Terror, and they are as bad as each other. It is the first attempt I have encountered to set to music either the verbatim words of George W Bush or those of Muslim terrorists taunting the West in the aftermath of the destruction of the Twin Towers. The piece also features papal and other writings from the time of the Crusades, which remind us of how man's savagery towards man stretches across the centuries; and also how spiritual sublimity and devotion can coexist with appalling acts of atrocity. For Arabs, says Blackford, the Crusades have never stopped. --Michael McManus, Music for 9/11
New 9/11 choral work confronts tensions between Christianity and Islam Town Hall, Cheltenham, 11.9.2011. This concert was in many respects a fitting commemoration of the attack on New York s World Trade Center ten years ago with the first half devoted to American music starting with Aaron Copland s Fanfare for the Common Man and Lincoln Portrait narrated by Simon Callow whose fine diction together with the BSOs sensitive playing made this a particularly moving occasion. The action then moved forward to the 9/11 tragedy itself. Simon Callow read an extract from journalist Tom Junod s description of a nameless man falling from one of the Twin Towers suspended momentarily in time words which we would hear set to music later on in the evening. Barber s Adagio for Strings provided a fitting elegy to the event with delicate, silky music from the BSOs strings which eventually melted into the air. Political speeches and belligerent calls to action might not strike one as the most obvious material for a choral work, and Richard Blackford showed great daring in confronting one of the major issues of our time the apparently irreconcilable rift between Christianity and Islam which harks back to the time of the Crusades. The work, entitled Not in Our Time after a poem by Hilda Doolittle, starts in the 21st century with an orchestral evocation of the attack on the Twin Towers and President George W Bushs address to Congress on September 20th 2001 declaring a crusade a war on terror. This provokes a strong reaction from two Arab spokesmen. Listeners are then transported back to the Middle Ages to hear Pope Urban II urge people to repel the Muslim invasion of the Holy Land and destroy that vile race since it is the will of God . Then follows a wonderfully stirring Crusaders marching hymn, Vexilla regis prodeunt, with a terrific brass and percussion accompaniment which makes them sound truly invincible as indeed they are. Jerusalem falls under their pitiless onslaught and they wade through the blood of their victims to worship at the Holy Sepulchre with the hymn Lucis largitor splendide a thrilling outpouring of praise full of contrapuntal complexity, which both the adult chorus and the children s chorus handled with relish and skill. But towards the end of their celebration dissonances appear in the music and one has a premonition that the Christians will not have things their own way for ever. The next section is as quiet and thought provoking as the previous one had been loud and triumphant. (Mr Blackford does not spare the use of fff and ffff if he feels the occasion demands it!) It is a setting of He deserts this earth like a arrow, Tom Junod s evocative description (previously --Roger Jones Seen and Heard International.com
"Not In Our Time is a paean of and to hope, a proclamation of shared humanity and, above all, a great oratorio for the peacemakers. This is a serious piece, but infinitely rewarding. Frankly, the more people who listen to it, the better, happier and more at peace with itself the world will be." --Michael McManus, Gramophone
"Fiercely paced and vividly dramatic, it s a huge sing and a grateful one. Blackford has proceeded fearlessly, intuitively, but with confidence in his own craft. Which is considerable. Not In Our Time is a terrific piece whose textual content may cause choirs and audiences to think: is this for us? Emphatically it is." --Michael White, The Telegraph
Not In Our Time was commissioned by the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus to mark their Centenary in 2011. It takes the attack on the World Trade Centre as the focal point of a work that explores the theme of war declared in the name of religion - from the speeches of George Bush and Barack Obama to the 11th century texts of the First Crusade. This poignant juxtaposition of texts alongside the vast emotional range of the symphony orchestra gives voice to the complex questions that surround these events. In the words of the composer, "perhaps it's through poetry and song that we can look unflinchingly at this tragedy of our time and offer some hope of reconciliation for the next generation."