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A Child of Our Time pictures

A Child of Our Time description

Liedertafel means singing round the table at home. And in the ‘city of churches’ surrounded by Liedertafel-loving immigrants, is it any wonder that the vein of community choral singing in South Australia runs deeper than in any other state? Germany has seen a massive revival of interest (they have 60,000 registered choirs!) and if the success of the McLaren Vale Big Sing is any indication, the wellspring is surging here too. Inspired by his outstanding work as associate conductor and chorus master for Requiem last year, we’ve entrusted Brett Weymark with the task of harnessing it to power a major choral event.

Michael Tippett’s A Child of Our Time is up there with Messiah, Elijah and A War Requiem among the great English-language oratorios. It was written in white-hot response to real events: the assassination of a German diplomat by teenage Jewish refugee Herschel Grynszpan (pictured), which led in 1938 to the state-sanctioned atrocity known as Kristallnacht. But Tippett’s work converts specifics to archetypes and this, combined with its accessible and timeless score, has ensured its endurance as a universal statement about horrific conflict and ways of healing.

Its most inspired feature, and one of the reasons why choirs and listeners love it, is the use of Afro-American spirituals (Steal Away, Nobody Knows the Trouble, Go Down Moses, Deep River) in the same way that Bach used familiar Lutheran hymns in his Passions: allowing the piece to widen and embrace its audience with tunes they know. The composer was fully aware of the parallels between Jewish and US black oppression (his libretto speaks of “pogroms in the East, lynchings in the West”) and he chose them in full knowledge that they were coded songs of liberation.

Given recent events in cities across America and around the world the pointed black interpolations of this monumental work both of, and ahead of its time burn brighter than ever. This Festival, you can join the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, four of our best soloists and a full-throated mass of humanity, drawn from all walks of life across the city and suburbs, for this unique and moving performance.

When I wrote the work, I was so engulfed in the actions of the period, I never considered its prophetic quality. But it seems that the growing violence springing out of divisions of nation, race, religion, status, colour, or even just rich and poor is possibly the deepest present threat to the social fabric of all human society.

Michael Tippett (1980)


Michael Tippett (1905-1998): A Child of Our Time (1942)

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