Commissioned by London Concert Choir with funds from Greater London Arts

  • tubular bells
  • 11 min

Programme Note

Tiananmen 1989, for double choir and tubular bells, was commissioned by The London Concert Choir with funds from Greater London Arts. The work is designed as a tribute, on the first anniversary, to the students who were killed in Tiananmen Square last year. The composer has compiled a text based on a documentary sources relating events and dates as they occurred. The music, based on tunes actually sung or heard at the time, responds to the information, which is delivered rather like a series of news bulletins evoking resonances in voices or bells.

In memory of the students for the first anniversary

Saturday, April the fifteenth:
White paper flowers for a politician's death -
"A match to a barrel of gunpowder."
Monday, April the seventeenth:
Wreaths at the Heroes' Monument,
And the sound of the Internationale,
In Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
Processions, marches, demonstrations:
"China has waited years for democracy."
Clashes at Zhongananhai.
Friday, April the twenty-first:
A hundred thousand
In Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
"Rise up, you who refuse to be slaves!"
Tuesday, April the twenty-fifth:
Dictators wield great power, but,
"If you let the people speak,
The heavens will not fall down."
Massive parade along Chang'an
To Zhonnanhai,
And Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
Thursday, May the fourth:
An echo of protests seventy years before.
Friday, May the twelfth:
In the sunshine,
The hunger-strike.
Monday, May the fifteenth:
The Russian leader came
"In spring time, the season of renewal and hope."
"Welcome, the initiator of glasnost!"
Wednesday, May the Seventeenth:
A million people.
"Long live democracy: down with corruption!"
Friday, May the nineteenth:
The hunger strike ended,
"We have won a great victory!"
But next day -
Soldiers in the suburbs,
Blockades along Chang'an.
Petitions, threats and delays
With Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace),
Filthy with refuse,
Blood in the air.
Tuesday, May the thirtieth:
The white Goddess of Democracy -
There is "No other way."
Friday, June the second:
Shots at last at Muxidi -
Hospitals rapidly overcrowded.
Still they sang the Internationale,
While waiting for death,
In Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
Saturday, June the third:
Radio Peking -
"Thousands of people were killed
By fully armed soldiers!"
The dictator wielded his great power.
In Tiananmen Square
(The Gate of Heavenly Peace).
White paper flowers.
© 1990 Peter Dickinson