Waiting for the Barbarians : SATB choir
by Andrew Ford (2011)
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Most poetry is either written in the first person or, at least, from the poet's point of view, so it seldom makes much sense to have it sung by a choir. But 'Waiting for the Barbarians' by C. P. Cavafy is that rare thing: a poetic crowd scene. It needs a chorus.
The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (1863 - 1933) wrote 'Waiting for the Barbarians' in 1904. It is not a poem that will date. We will always feel disappointed in our politicians, and there will always be those among us who feel that anything - even capitulation to barbarians - is better than the status quo.
There are several good English translations of the poem, including one by John Mavrogordato and a recent one by Daniel Mendelsohn, but when I came to look for the version to set to music they all seemed a little too flat and formal for my needs. This was Cavafy's detached style, but it seemed to me that, sung, the words might sound a little odd. So I decided to make my own version, putting in more repetition (Cavafy already had some), adding a few colloquialisms and gingering up the tone with a little emotion.
Instrumentation: SATB choir.
Duration: 9 min.
Dedication note: Dedicated to Barry Jones
- Inspired by: Literature & Poetry
Performances of this work
6 May 2017: at CIMF 2017: Why Do the Nations? (Fitters' Workshop).
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