War Requiem: Outdoor Rehearsal at Tanglewood
To be read while listening to War Requiem,
by Benjamin Britten, especially the Dies irae
We only hold ten thousand notes. Our bodies tense
at trumpets sounding with more brass, and then
in unison all the men’s voices
march march march on rubble,
bombs blast—because the timpani is pounding.
A Berkshire storm suddenly drops like mortar shells:
black clouds roll as if demented. The rage we feel
at war deflects the rasping, raucous wind.
Behind Maestro the canvas curtain curls,
an acoustical device the size of a ship’s white sail.
Bottom corners whip—like chips of flint, then
strike! strike! strike! the electric air.
We women sing quantus tremor est futurus
(how a tremor is). But do we really know?
The baritone prepares to sing “Bugles sang”
(But I Was Looking at the Permanent Stars).
On the title page of our score, Britten quoted
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity …
All a poet can do today is warn.
So, in our person, our strong stance, our firm
presence here—we sing from our mighty occupation
of secondary power: a chorus. We sing
to all who abuse their primary power from a high seat
of political influence or a home:
ENOUGH! ENOUGH! ENOUGH!
Seiji Ozawa, conductor