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Randle, Rhiannon: Our Burning World

Ref: CN47 ISMN: 9790220226458 Categories: , , By:

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SATB and organ

The prophetic voice of esteemed religious poet Malcolm Guite and rising young composer Rhiannon Randle in collaboration exhorts action not somnolence in the face of the climate crisis, of world’s end literally in fire or ice. The challenge of replanting ‘the sacred wood’ in a burning world ‘turning in despair’ is at one with the very miracle of Christ’s salvation, thus a source of eternal hope. For believers and non-believers alike, Randle’s stirring anthem conveys a compelling message of renewal.

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First performed by the choir of St Michael’s, Cornhill on 17 February 2020, Our Burning World is a fervent entreaty for the preservation of the environment from the catastrophe of climate change, while the means are still within our grasp. As if to suggest the fractured bond between humanity and nature, the anthem is tightly constructed around a core melodic motif, yet is unsettled by the ominous tritone interval suffusing its textures both horizontally and vertically. The voices sing as the choral persona of the earth itself, in Malcolm Guite’s poem specially written at the composer’s request. His striking text transforms through imagery unique to our contemporary crisis the prescient message of the lectionary readings that accompanied the premiere, from Isaiah 51:17–20 and Mark 14:32–42. Imagined as a created child of God, suffering with humankind and likewise defiled, the planet pleads for redemption and for the replanting of ‘the sacred wood’ through the miracle of the Crucifixion. Whether as prayer for saving grace or time-honoured symbol of hope, the message is clear: words without deeds are insufficient. And yet words with music are a powerful summons, and in Our Burning World are a wake-up call to turn passion into action.

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Our burning world is turning in despair,
I hear her seething, sighing through the air:

‘Oh rouse yourself, this is your wake up call
For your pollution forms my funeral pall
My last ice lapses, slips into the sea,
Will you unfreeze your tears and weep for me?
Or are you sleeping still, taking your rest?
The hour has come, that puts you to the test,
Wake up to change at last, and change for good,
Repent, return, re-plant the sacred wood.
You are my children, I too am God’s child,
And we have both together been defiled,
But God hangs with us, on the hallowed tree
That we might both be rescued, both be free’.

Malcolm Guite
© Copyright 2021 Stainer & Bell Ltd

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