Today the composer Michael Tippett, who joined the trespassers on Kinder Scout in 1932, would have been 113 years old.
In celebration, Radio 3 invited listeners to Essential Classics this morning to nominate music which would make a suitable companion to the five negro spirituals* from Tippett’s oratorio, A Child of Our Time. This sombre work was inspired by the persecution of the Jews and was published in 1941.
I studied those spirituals for music O level and remember learning how in Tippett’s oratorio they served the purpose of the chorales in Bach’s oratorios, notably the St John Passion. They punctuate the text and provide a familiar landmark to lighten the gravity of the work and enable you to find your bearings.
Therefore, I volunteered the St John Passion to Radio 3 as a companion piece (by email, text and twitter). Unfortunately the presenter, Ian Skelly, did not select my suggestion. However, he did mention a comment from another listener who said that apparently Tippett used spirituals as the equivalent of Bach’s chorales, so the point was made.
* The spirituals are: Steal away; Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord; Go down, Moses; O, by and by, and Deep River.