Sunday, January 18, 2009


The day after the aerial bombardment of Gaza kicked off the current spike in Middle East slaughter, when many in the world were still celebrating the birth of the Jewish teacher often called the Prince of Peace, I slipped in an oblique call to continue the 'Christmas Spirit', as cliched as that may be. It is not the cliche that is the problem, it is the loss of the message. It was to Benjamin Britten that I turned to springboard, through his Ceremony of Carols, to a brief reflection on passivity and peace. Britten's War Requiem, together with his opera-for-television, Owen Wingrave, are as strong as any anti-war statements can get.

The link is above. The gist of the thread is that in 1942 Britten, the pacifist, wrote his Ceremony of Carols as he crossed the Atlantic returning to a Britain at War and the tribunal for conscientious objectors. His stance was accepted and he went on to compose his War Requiem for the opening of the new Coventry Cathedral, and further define, and personalise, these beliefs in Owen Wingrave.

His War Requiem (not that long ago given a powerful performance here on the day the city was agog when the two sisters met in Sydney Harbour) is the sort of thing we should hear every Anzac Day.

Feb 24 2008, we were in the white building between the boats

Anyway, today, 3 weeks before elections in Israel and 3 days before the folding of the Bush umbrella, or rather before it is blown inside out into black tattered shreds with its weak spindly spines buckled by the winds of good, there is news of a cease-fire. And it was today that I came across two things which moved me to pass them on.

In the Royal Opera House Youtubes, there is a telling documentary (11:14) on Britten and his War Requiem:

More locally, Alison Croggon's Theatre Notes hosts an essay from David Lloyd, Professor of English at the University of Southern California and a member of the US collective Teachers Against Occupation, which is about the olive trees of Palestine and the destruction of culture.

"The catastrophic sound of falling, ancient trees, the spectral rustle of burning leaves, echoes out to the world. The call is clear: “It is time for this to stop.”

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