• Joseph Horovitz
  • Samson (1977)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the National Brass Band Festival

  • brass band
  • SATB
  • baritone
  • 29 min
  • Joseph Horovitz
  • Chris Judge Smith
  • English

Programme Note

Words: Chris Judge Smith Music: Joseph Horovitz

The Philistines hold Samson captive in Gaza. He is blind and his daily task is to turn the millstones in the prison-yard.

The chorus recalls the events which led to his humiliation: -

At his birth an angel prophesied that he would be endowed with great strength and would free his people from their oppressors. He was to dedicate himself to the Lord as a Nazarite, and never cut his hair, a sign of his holiness. We hear wondrous tales as gossip in the market place: his physical power, his single-handed war against the Philistines, and also his repeated attraction to their women. Samson's exploits as freedom fighter cause fear of reprisals among the Hebrew Elders, who trap the unsuspecting hero and lead him bound before the enemy. Samson tears his fetters like ribbons, inflicts heavy casualties among the Philistines, who withdraw completely and leave the Hebrews in temporary peace. Samson is hailed as saviour, and made Judge of the People.

Returning to the opening scene in Gaza prison, Samson recalls his love for Delilah, and his foolishness in trusting her.

As reality merges with memory - we hear a re-enactment of his final capture: -

The Philistine Lords persuade Delilah to discover the secret of his strength. She uses her exotic feminine wiles to draw the truth from Samson, regarding the holy power of his hair. As he sleeps, she cuts his locks. The Philistines capture him with ease and blind him.

As he reflects on his sad state, a Philistine herald orders him to be taken to the temple of Dagon (their god, a fish-idol), where he is to be paraded before the mob at the Feast of Dagon. As the crowd shouts abuse and jeers at his blindness, he prays for the return of his former strength for one more time, reminding God of the prophecy to free his people. He stumbles beside the huge pillars of the temple, and to the amazement of the trembling Philistines, crushes the masonry between his arms. The temple crumbles about the heads of the Philistines, and he himself dies with his enemies in a final demonstration of divine power.

Chorus and soloist sing an epilogue: -

"So passed Samson into final night,
The setting Sun-man, who would dawn anew
And rise - a fiery gold
In story-tellers' skies."