Blackford: Not In Our Time

COMPOSERS: Blackford
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Blackford
WORKS: Not In Our Time
PERFORMER: Paul Nilon (tenor), Stephen Gadd (baritone); Bournemouth SO, Chorus & Youth Chorus/Gavin Carr
CATALOGUE NO: NI 6161

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Not In Our Time was written for the centenary of the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, and to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City. It’s an ambitious piece, written to investigate ‘the universal theme of how religion is used as a pretext or justification for war’. Texts are drawn from across the centuries, including utterances from George W Bush, Pope Urban II, Mohammed Ben Zeky and the Bible.

Blackford’s music is gesturally direct, aiming for visceral impact in the scrunching orchestral discord that represents the moment the Twin Towers collapsed; and jabbing, truculent vocal lines are given to both to Bush’s ‘new kind of evil’ speech, and the militant Arab reaction broadcast on Al Jazeera. ‘They are as bad as each other’, according to Blackford – that assumption, however, tends to make the music somewhat unvaried.

There are quieter moments, too, notably in the spectral setting of Tom Junod’s The Falling Man, and the performance shows exemplary skill and commitment. But there’s an earnest preachiness about the music which is a little wearing.

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Terry Blain