Richard Blackford on BBC Radio 3
27th June 2012
Press for Not in Our Time
Fiercely paced and vividly dramatic, it's a huge sing and a grateful one. It's perfectly designed to stretch the chorus without asking the impossible. …..Out of this melting-pot comes something that speaks for itself, and with tremendous force….And that's the only test: the whole thing worked. Against the odds. Writing this piece was like walking into a minefield, and too hesitant a step – in the interests of subtlety, good taste or whatever – could have been the end of it. But Blackford has proceeded fearlessly, intuitively, maybe rashly, but with confidence in his own craft. Which is considerable. Not in Our Time is a terrific piece whose textual content may cause choirs and audiences to think: is this for us? Emphatically it is.
Michael White, The Telegraph, 14/09/2011
Not in Our Time stands in a powerful tradition of English oratorios that are highly political and overtly pacifist, drawing upon texts old and new to make the link between the contemporary and specific on the one hand, and the timeless and absolute on the other. I believe what the world needs now is a message of healing, of moderation and shared humanity – and that is precisely what Blackford provides in this new work. It may take a while for his natural optimism to break through, but when it does, it is glorious. Drawing alarming parallels between the Christian-Muslim conflicts of 900 years ago and the comparable miseries of today, he forces his audience to look in the eye a profound, hideous truth: century after century, men abandon their shared humanity all too readily, using religious rhetoric to inspire nauseating atrocities. The texts used are alternately shaming and moving – and both the lyrical inspiration and the orchestration are of the highest level . Not in Our Time is perhaps closer to Tippett than to Britten – rooted in tonality whilst pushing at its boundaries when anger strikes – but both influences are palpably there, without the slightest hint of it being derivative. Invention is all – and there is invention aplenty. This is a paean of and to hope, a proclamation of shared humanity and, above all, a great oratorio for the peacemakers. This is a serious piece, but infinitely rewarding. Frankly, the more people who listen to it, the better, happier and more at peace with itself the world will be.
Michael McManus, Gramophone, 13/09/2011
Richard Blackford showed great daring in confronting one of the major issues of our time – the apparently irreconcilable rift between Christianity and Islam which harks back to the time of the Crusades. ……a wonderfully stirring Crusaders’ marching hymn, Vexilla regis prodeunt, with a terrific brass and percussion accompaniment which makes them sound truly invincible. Jerusalem falls under their pitiless onslaught and they wade through the blood of their victims to worship at the Holy Sepulchre with the hymn Lucis largitor splendide – a thrilling outpouring of praise full of contrapuntal complexity, which both the adult chorus and the children’s chorus handled with relish and skill. Not in Our Time is an ingenious and provocative work which raises important issues for our time. Apart from that it is very strong and varied musically with some imaginative orchestration and really challenging items for the chorus to get their teeth into. Richard Blackford has composed a work which is stimulating both musically and intellectually, and choral societies who appreciate a challenge should be vying with each other to perform it. It proved a magnificent climax to a concert inspired by the tragic events of a decade ago and deservedly received a standing ovation.
Roger Jones, Seen and Heard International, 12/09/2011