I was born at the tag end of WW2. Never, in my lifetime, has there been peace on earth. Always a War somewhere. Each outbreak, the media switches from the last War to the next war. Currently, Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan. Afghanistan, Western Sahara……on and on. More than 45 armed conflicts are currently taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa. When will we ever learn?
Earth Song. A song from The Shouting Fence.
And they asked him, Why do you sing?
and he answered
I sing —————–
Oh, Palestine eyes, oh Palestine heart, Oh Palestine wounds and sorrow
And they searched his chest
but could only find his heart and
they searched his heart
but could only find his people
And they searched his chest but could only find his heart
and they searched his prison but could only find themselves in chains
Oh… And they searched… Oh…..Palestine eyes..
“And they searched his heart but could only find his heart.”
“In the shadow of the wall, we are waiting for peace; we are longing for peace.”
In the production, The Shouting Fence, performed by The Shout, Richard Chew’s beautiful music set to Palestinian Poets Mahmoud Darwish and Ali Ahmad Sa’id (also known as Adonis). poetry. The libretto moved me so much. Now I have tears once more. 2023. I recorded one of the songs from Shouting Fence, on an album of poems, some of mine and others I love, including Earth Poem, set in Musical landscapes and recorded in Jura Hebrides with Giles Perring .
….. The show gives many of the group a chance to shine as composers and arrangers. Song of Work by Carol Grimes has a vigour and improvised complexity that recalls The Shouting Fence. Yet the musical heart of the Shout remains in Gough’s substantial compositions and arrangements, including Saltwater Laments, Personent Hodie and an intense, raw treatment of I Saw Three Ships.
A letter to a friend, a young Bosnian refugee, with whom I worked on a project about the Balkans War in the 1990s. Deptford SE8 London 2003
On Monday Evening, I was singing in a concert at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry. I drove up with one of the bands who had, on her admission, a terrible sense of direction, so she managed to take wrong turns. A lot! We ended up in the middle of Birmingham in the rush hour, swinging around the ring road three times, trying to find the road to Coventry. Twice, we passed the sign for Sparkbrook, and I thought of you. I had the card you just received in my pocket to post, so it travelled almost to your door and back again and was posted in London the next day. We made the gig with 20 minutes to spare. Ouch.! In December, I am in Amsterdam doing a piece by Richard and another composer, Orlando Gough, called the Shouting Fence. So I am rehearsing from 17th November, then away till 5th Dec. It has a beautiful song composed by Richard set to a poem by The Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish ……..
Un-Earth. Un-earth Birmingham Arts Centre Music Richard Chew Script Peter Cann Directed by Steve Johnston Unearthing the horrors of war .The seeds of Un-Earth were planted years ago and lie in witness testimonies to the horrors of Bosnia and the role of Birmingham in offering refugees asylum. Mac-Productions joined forces with Birmingham-based theatre group The Restrictionists to combine the two and develop a large-scale community project.
The Shouting Fence FROM A REVIEW BELOW, translated from Dutch.
It’s not strange that The Shouting Fence is, to a large extent, based on poetry written by Mahmoud Darwish and Ali Ahmad Sa’id (also known as Adonis). Both poets were leaders of contemporary Arab poetry, and both have written extensively about exile. They both use simple vocabulary and plain, recurrent images: an olive tree, shadow, desert, chains, and lovers.
Shouting Fence is a vocal story of a community split in two. The story is based on Majdel Shams. Following the 1967 war, Israel occupied and illegally annexed the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel decided to cross the valley into two parts and to prohibit any communication and any access to the Syrian community residing on the other side of the valley. The families separated by this border have called it the “shouting valley,” because it is the single mean which they have to communicate.
The Culture Park Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam provided a natural setting for a unique performance of The Shouting Fence. This musical expression of emotions about the Separation Wall built in the occupied Palestinian territories was performed by at least 1,500 voices. They include The Shout, a professional choir directed by Orlando Gough and Richard Chew, and the Exile choir, Trajecti Voces, Utrechtse Studenten Cantorij, Childrens’ choir De Kickers and four hundred singers from various choirs and individuals performed The Shouting Fence.
“In the shadow of the wall, in the shadow of the wall, we are waiting, we are waiting for peace, we are longing for peace.” First, on soft tone, whispering, then becoming louder and louder, hundreds of voices shouting. Between what resembles concrete parts of the wall and the audience in the middle, between a fence and barbed wires, on two sides of the arena, two large groups of singers shout, sing and whisper. Performers of The Shouting Fence behind the barbed wire. (AM) In the front row, are members of The Shout, a British vocal ensemble. (AM)
“And they searched his heart but could only find his heart.”
The reality of this piece in 2004 is striking. Soon, Israel will complete the construction of the wall built in the occupied Palestinian territories. The wall will leave Palestinian families marooned. Villages and towns will be almost completely cut off. Despite the International Court of Justice ruling that the wall be torn down, construction is steaming along. Palestinians have lost contact with their loved ones, access to their land and lost their work.
When completed, close to 200,000 Palestinians will find themselves trapped in enclaves or closed military zones, with devastating consequences for their households. Their freedom of movement is severely restricted, making it impossible for many to get to their workplaces, schools or hospitals. Several thousand Palestinians have already been displaced by house demolitions, land confiscations and the effective cutting-off of towns and villages since the construction works began in 2002.
Shouting Fence portrays the feeling of a need to communicate, mutual love and the feeling of frustration not being able to connect. The eleven songs, written by famous Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, famous Syrian poet Ali Ahmad Sa’id and Orlando Gough, who also composed the music together with Richard Chew, provided a range of solo and full choir pieces.
The overall performance was directed by Peter Maissan, who regularly directs various productions with large groups. Orlando Gough is one of the most important British contemporary composers of ballet, theatre, film and choir music. In 1999 Gough and Chew got inspired by a picture of a Syrian woman with a megaphone. In eleven parts it becomes clear what it means to be separated and still have the need to communicate.
From Darwish’ Diaries of a Palestinian wound, earlier performed and composed by Lebanese singer Marcel Khalife, the choir sang: “My homeland is not a suitcase and I am not a traveller. I am the lover and the land is the beloved. Our departed are the candles for the people to move in the night.”
The venue, De Gashouder (Gasholder), a 3,000 m² structure on a former gas works complex, was the perfect location for this event. Two big choirs on each side, separated by barbed wire fences, 20 meter from the audience. In this way, the audience directly experienced the attempts of the choirs to connect with each other. The audience represented the wall and barrier. From three sides, the two big choirs on either side and the exile choir in the back, voices sang together and alone, mixed and towards each other. Being the wall, one can hear the frustrations, the urge to meet and greet, to communicate and interact. The intention was to make the audience feel what the wall emotionally does to communities when separated. Shouting Fence makes the audience understand that the wall is divisive and destructive. It also showed that human beings will always find ways to connect whatever barriers are made.
Below Shouting Fence. Rehearsals.
To the person who wrote a comment on this blog. I just wanted to let you know that you misunderstood my words. The Shouting Fence highlighted the desperate need for peace, sanity, and talk, not War. And, of course, after WW2, The West, the UK, the USA, France, and then came NATO. All waded into the Middle East. The USSR into Europe…Borders were changed. Lives and communities were uprooted, and after the horrors of those times, I don’t think there has ever been a time of peace on Earth. There is always war and death somewhere on Earth. We need to practice peace. I feel for all those ordinary people trying to live with dignity, wherever they are, a home, food, family, and friends…the everyday parts of life everyone should enjoy. Life without fear, poverty, hunger and the horrors of War. Humanity in peace.