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Mothers Shall Not Cry

posted on 2023-06-07, 23:37 authored by Jonathan Harvey
Harvey's brief from the BBC was to compose a "millennium cantata" that embraced the religions of the world. His response is fascinating: a choral work with elements of theatre, which confronts the evils perpetrated by males on the 20th century with "the sort of values that mothers routinely display in their unconditional love and cherishing of their children", as the composer puts it in his programme note. The 40-minute work opens with a litany of names, innocent victims of countless conflicts, proclaimed by the all-female chorus before the "latent opera", as Harvey calls it, begins. A soprano soloist offers up Buddhist and Christian pleas for reconciliation, and the clash between male-induced suffering and the liberation that the sacred feminine offers is exemplified by the appearance of the tenor, the Unknown Warrior (Robert Brubaker), singing an aggressive, invented language. His encounter with female wisdom produces reconciliation and the work ends in a ritual chant. It is tautly organised and the orchestral writing, using sophisticated electronics to project and modulate the sound around the auditorium, is full of finely imagined detail. The writing for the chorus, full of tightly knit canons, occasionally lapses into English choral tradition blandness, but the solo parts are sharply characterised.


Publication status

  • Published


London: Faber

Department affiliated with

  • Music Publications


HIRE 45 mins. soprano tenor semi-chorus chorus orchestra and electronics. Commissioned by the BBC for the Proms season 2000.

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