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Waiting for the Barbarians : SATB choir

by Andrew Ford (2011)

Waiting for the Barbarians


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Waiting for the Barbarians / Andrew Ford.

Library shelf no. 782.55542/FOR 5 [Available for loan]

Work Overview

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.

Work Details

Year: 2011

Instrumentation: SATB choir.

Duration: 9 min.

Difficulty: Medium

Dedication note: Dedicated to Barry Jones

Commission note: Commissioned by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

First performance: by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Graham Abbott at Vespers & Waiting for the Barbarians (St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta) on 20 Jul 2012


Performances of this work

6 May 2017: at CIMF 2017: Why Do the Nations? (Fitters' Workshop).

22 Jul 2012: at Vespers & Waiting for the Barbarians (Christ Church Cathedral (Newcastle NSW)). Featuring Graham Abbott, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

21 Jul 2012: at Vespers & Waiting for the Barbarians (St Mary's Cathedral (Sydney)). Featuring Graham Abbott, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

20 Jul 2012: at Vespers & Waiting for the Barbarians (St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta). Featuring Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Graham Abbott.

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