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Vocal with chamber orchestra works

For Mrs Tomoyasu from 'Or Shall We Die?'

Duration: 7 minutes
Published by Oxford University Press

The oratorio Or Shall We Die? was commissioned from Ian McEwan and Michael Berkeley by the London Symphony Orchestra Chorus. It was first performed in 1983, the year that Ronald Reagan declared that a nuclear conflict in Europe was not only thinkable but winnable; cruise missiles came to Britain; Heseltine was appointed by Thatcher to extinguish CND; Professions for World Disarmament and Development was formed at the suggestion of Fenner Brockway and MANA was formed as one of those professional peace groups.

This piece is the chamber version of the soprano aria in section five of the work which forms the heart of the oratorio.

Mrs Tomoyasu was a young woman in 1945 when her nine year-old daughter died in her arms after the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima. She told her story to Jonathan Dimbleby in his television film In Evidence: The Bomb, and her words changed by the librettist, Ian McEwan, only to make smoother rhythms were used directly in the text.

All night I searched for my daughter.
At dawn a neighbour told me
she had seen her by the river,
among the dead and dying.

I heard her voice calling Mother, Mother,
and I went towards the sound.
My child was completely burned.
The skin had come off her head,
leaving a knot of twisted hair.

My daughter said, Mother, you're late, so late,
please take me back. It hurts, it hurts.
Please take me home. But there were no homes,
no doctors, there was nothing I could do.

I covered up her naked body and held her
in my arms for seven hours.
Late at night she cried out again, Mother,
Mother, and put her arm around my neck,
her small cold arm.

I said, Please say Mother again,
But that was the last time.

© Michael Berkeley

Songs of Awakening Love

Duration: 26 minutes
Published by Oxford University Press

This work is a setting of three poems; two sonnets, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, framing a scherzo-like song of elation by Christina Rossetti. The poems superficially seem straight-laced and high-minded, but, in reality, smoulder with intense expression.

© Michael Berkeley

The Wild Winds

Duration: 12 minutes
Published by Oxford University Press