“My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity…
All a poet can do today is warn.”
A. and I experienced that warning this past weekend. We had bought tickets to Benjamin Britten’s masterpiece, War Requiem. Performed by the New England Philharmonic, the performance took place in the South End at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the largest Roman Catholic Church in New England.
I was familiar with World War I poet Wilfred Owen, and I had listened to War Requiem in the past, but nothing was able to prepare me for hearing it live. For those who are not familiar with the piece, here is some background:
In 1940, the English city of Coventry was bombed and as a result, the 14th century cathedral was destroyed. The building of a new cathedral began in 1956 and it was consecrated in 1962. Lifelong pacifist Benjamin Britten was asked to compose a piece for the occasion. This request led to the creation of War Requiem. The piece intertwines the poetry of Wilfred Owen (a WWI soldier/poet who was gunned down and killed in 1918, a week before the cease-fire occurred) and the traditional Latin Requiem Mass (minus the Tract and Gradual). The poetry pits two opposing forces together, creating a tense dialogue. Behind pews, in the balcony, the Boston Children’s Choir mimicked a choir of angels urging peace and rest for the dead.
Heavy stuff, eh? Especially in these uncertain times. However, we were happy to have the opportunity to see this piece performed live. We were even luckier to meet up with two friends who happened to be at the performance as well. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying tea, coffee, and dessert at the South End Buttery Cafe. We didn’t arrive home until after midnight. Not bad for two kids from the ‘burbs.