Britten’s Advance Democracy – A rallying cry for us all

Our upcoming concert on Saturday 11th January at London’s Cadogan Hall will feature homegrown arrangements from our talented choir members. In the run up to the concert we are sharing information about some of our favourite arrangements, some of the artists and pieces we will be performing and how we go about creating such a magical sound that delights our choir and audience alike.

Charlotte Rushworth

Soprano Charlotte Rushworth talks about her music choice for the concert and what the piece means to her.

As a child I lived in a coastal area on the borders of Suffolk and Essex. It’s a beautiful area of the country; flat, marshy, salty, windy and remote. I would play music, sing music, listen to music and dream of becoming a famous musician travelling the world and breaking free from this eerie coastal backwater. I lived in an area that was immensely proud of its connection to our most famous local musician Benjamin Britten. We could all sing or hum his ‘big numbers’ by heart and loved and adored him and his fantastical ability to paint in music the surroundings and environment in which we found ourselves.

When I was asked to find a piece of classical music that could be sung in the fantastical environment in which I now find myself, the obvious starting point was Benjamin Britten and I spent a blissful two days listening to every choral work he wrote searching for a connection to the theme of this concert.

And eventually I found it.

Advance Democracy was commissioned in 1938 by the London Co-operative Society as the writing was on the wall for the outbreak of the second world war and Europe was swirling in a mire of pure evil. It was designed as political propaganda to be used as a rallying cry against a pan-European dictatorship. 

This incredible piece of music documents the rise of fascism with staccato rhythms and clashing intervals. A deeply disturbing legato soprano introduction (repeated through all the voices) evokes the creep of fascism. The unison rhythmic lines unite in a call to resist the rise of evil. And the section towards the end where the word time is repeated 8 times invokes the listener (and performer) to resist evil, question the world we want for ourselves and empowers us to seek change and a more equitable future free of menace.

Advance Democracy has the magic ability to transcend the twentieth century and travel forward to where we find ourselves today – in turmoil with the world that surrounds us. We need a rallying call to rise up against the menacing powers that creep forward to pollute, discriminate and divide. It’s as if Benjamin Britten has risen from the salt marshes and pebble beaches and has come forward to shake us around the necks and implore us to “rise as a single being … time to rise up and cry”. 

Charlotte Rushworth

By Special Arrangement – Part 2
Saturday 11th January 2020 – 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square, London SW1X 9DG

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