Programme Notes


Lonely Sits The City is based on the Book of Lamentations, a sequence of five poems from the Hebrew Bible, reflecting an ancient tradition of mourning poems after the destruction of a city. In this case, the city is Jerusalem invaded and destroyed in 586 BC.  

This piece is emphatically not a traditional setting of the text. I've chosen small extracts from each section to make an emotional journey through this very bleak landscape. It is theatrical rather than liturgical; angry rather than comforting. 

In the middle of the opening poem, the narrative switches to an urgent first-person voice ("May it not befall you, all who pass by this road"). This voice is clearly female, representing the city itself. But the thoughts and feelings reflected in the text are so graphic and immediate that they suggest a real woman: someone who has survived the onslaught, now surveying the physical, psychological and emotional destruction of her life. Giving some sense to the emotional experience of this women is the main purpose of this piece. 

In the pre-recorded music there are snatches of whispered and sung Hebrew. In most instances these are verses from the beginning of each of the five poems. I've also used the 

Hebrew letters, partly as a reflection of the acrostic nature of the poems, but also as a nod to the many beautiful settings of these words by sixteenth and seventheenth century composers, which often include the letters in an ornamental style before a more austere setting of the verses that follow. 

The phrase "Echah" which begins three of the poems and is used extensively in the piece, is usually translated as "Alas".