• Aulis Sallinen
  • Dies Irae (1978)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the Ensemble of the Hungarian People's Army

  • 3(pic)33(bcl)3(cbn)4431timp.3perchpstr(no vn)
  • male choir
  • soprano, bass
  • 24 min
  • Aulis Sallinen
  • Arvo Turtiainen
  • Finnish, English

Programme Note

The work is dramatic in conception. The Christmas Angel - sung by the soprano soloist - repeats the familiar message, "On earth, peace, and good will toward men". The bass soloist represents the Narrator - the poet himself. Supported by the male voice choir and orchestra, he describes an apocalyptic vision of the world's nuclear destruction one Christmas Day. The great nightmare of mankind has come true, and man has met his deserved fate: he has destroyed his own planet.

From outer space a man arrives to see the destroyed Earth. Through him a spark of hope is kindled in us: perhaps somewhere in the universe there lives another humanity, nobler than ours.

English translation by Essi Kiviranta and Rodney Blumer

On the land. On the water. There was peace still
and that water still was lapping on the shoreline
It was Christmas morning. The city wreathed in mist
as I went walking on the rocks that lay across the shoreline
Grey the waves that the wind drove past the point where the
lighthouse stood. And grey the clouds that were blown o'er the
roofs of the city
"Peace" cried the angels "on earth be peace, good will to all men."
As I stood there I was thinking of clouds far beyond this land
and water
Clouds that roar ever aloft with mushroom heads and that
strive to pierce the stratosphere
"Peace" cried the angels "on earth be peace, good will to all men."
I saw how fragile the peace of your Christmas, oh city,
as fragile and insubstantial as the tinsel baubles hung on your
Christmas trees
Just imagine, can you, that this came to pass:
Say it was winter. Say it was Christmas. White with ice and snow,
cold and pale from your lack of the sunlight
Just imagine, can you, from the water's leaden greyness came
poison suddenly oozing
Say the air itself was gasping with radioactivity,
from the trees the bark and from the stones the moss falling
like scabs of tissue
Say the birds from out the sky fell in silent accusation.
Just imagine, can you, in the wind a humming sound, and the
clouds a humming too
Just imagine, can you, the parsons in his Christmas sermon,
preaching of
"Peace on earth, peace on earth"
and collapsing suddenly in his pulpit
Just imagine, can you, the bells above you all in the steeple
there ("Peace on earth")
crashing down upon a helpless congregation
crashing from a burning sky, blood-red
So would the beast of Armeggedon explode in fire and thunder
Say, what if the sight of the world were thus blinded
What if the world's ear thus were to burst, to be shattered
What if the face of the world in terror turned to blue as it

And later there would be silence, silence, silence

And later, rocking in the wind is that which we were most afraid of
and silence

And later
One year, two years
Or a hundred years
Thereafter would he then come
He who we dreamed of as children, of who we talked in whispers
as dusk was falling
He the spaceman come from Venus or beyond
Sagittarius or from further still, Andromeda
Might he approach this very shore
Might he stand on these rocks
Might he pause by the water's edge
And if he should gaze round him
round the horizon
listening carefully
No living thing, nothing stirring and no sound
no sound of animals
of animals or humans
No Christmas bells pealing
but only wind so weary
and leaden greyness of the sea

And later
What if the waves upon this shoreline were to wash up to him
from a Christmas tree,
tinsel, say a golden angel, made of tinsel paper, on which
there might be written
"Peace on earth, good will to all men."
Can you say what he would do then?
Would he test the water lest it be filled with poison?
Would he smell the earth that still reeked of putrefaction?
Would he turn in sadness folding his golden wings around him
covering his features as he turned homewards?
Slowly winging to his far domains back beyond Sagittarius
Or further still, to Andromeda
And once there, would he summon all his people
and then would he tell them:

"I found land, peace and silence.
I found water
And on that water
There I found humankind's message of hope eternal."

'It was Christmas Day' by
Arvo Turtiainen