The original version of Lament for Jerusalem was commisioned by Father Arthur E. Bridge OAM for Ars Musica Australis. The 'Jerusalem version' was arranged for The Choir of London. First performance at Christ Church, Spitalfields, London on 18th December 2004, by The Choir of London and The Orchestra of London conducted by Jeremy Summerly.
Lament for Jerusalem 'Jerusalem version' (2002)
The title Lament for Jerusalem might suggest a work written for the war-torn place that contemporary Jerusalem has become, but this would be to limit and misunderstand it. For me, Jerusalem is a universal symbol which signifies the changeless and celestial synthesis of the Cosmos, and the primordial longing of man for God. The Lament is a sign, therefore, and a lament for the lost paradise that is universal. Titus Burchhardt has said that “Sacred Art recapitulates the creation in parables, delivering the human spirit from its attachment to crude and ephemeral facts”. Thus, Lament for Jerusalem has nothing to do with the endless and despairing ugliness of the forms which permeate the ordinary life of our times, but is rather, I hope, a love-song, lamenting our banishment from home, and the temporary loss of our Beatific vision. So Lament for Jerusalem is a mystical love-song. It is only through love that there can be a transcendent unity of all religions and all manifestations of God. I have taken texts from various traditions, and in composing, attempted to form a unity. There are three elements: the Christic in Christ’s lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23), which is sung by the chorus in the original Greek; the Judaic in Psalm 137 “by the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept”, the words divided between the choir and the solo soprano; and the Islamic, taken from the prologue of Maulana Jalalu-d-din Muhammad i Rûmi’s sublime Masnavi, which is always sung by the solo countertenor. All phenomenal existences (man included) are but “veils” obscuring the face of the Divine Noumenon, the only real existence, and the moment His sustaining presence is withdrawn they at once relapse into their original nothingness. It is only through the love of God that the world, at an inner level, can heal itself in a civilisation of plurality and outward discord.
The music of Lament for Jerusalem should be sung and played with great intensity, but at the same time with purity of heart, always reflecting the mystical, sacred and sublime nature of the texts. Also, although intensely tender, it should have a magisterial dignity, transcending any human dimension. The mysterious words of Christ, “Eklafsen ep afteen” (He wept over her) ambiguously and consistently haunt the music of the entire lament.
The structure of the Lament reflects the simplicity of a love-song. The work is divided into seven Stanzas, each of which contains the Christic, Judaic and Islamic elements, as well as the cosmic dimension of the piece as a whole. Ideally it should be performed in a sacred space or other generous acoustic that will allow the music to ‘breathe’ in its slow, measured pace, as befits a lamenting, mystical love-song. The flutes, oboe and strings represent love, the brasses royalty and dignity, the harp, Tibetan temple bowls and tubular bells ritual, and the voices the Logos (the Word of God) of the three traditions.
Preview the score: