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A Child of Our Time

Oratorio for soloists (SATB), chorus and orchestra
text by the composer
SATB soloists, chorus and orchestra
A Child of Our Time arose out of the general situation in Europe before the Second World War. But a Europe, for me, stretching out through its torments towards Russia in the east, and even America in the West. So that though, after much searching, the final jolt into composition came from a particular and political event, I knew from the first that the work itself had to be anonymous and general, in order to reach down to the deeper levels of our com- mon humanity. Michael Tippett, 1975
Edition: Performance material

Product Details


In the early 1930’s, as Michael Tippett was approaching maturity as a composer, he became aware of the social injustices caused by the Depression and widespread unemployment – especially in the North of England. He also sensed the likely consequences of the rise of Nazism in Central Europe and Stalinism in Russia. He felt that he must express his solidarity with the deprived and the downtrodden through his work as a composer. In 1938, the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a young Polish Jew, made desperate by the Nazi persecution of his race in general and his family in particular, led to the infamous ‘Kristallnacht’ of 9 November. Tippett shared in the public horror which this aroused, deciding that he must respond with a composition which, as it turned out, was to be his first major public statement as an artist, and one that is now performed all over the world.

A Child of Our Time is a traditional baroque oratorio with a famous twist: Tippett places five Spirituals at its heart, instead of Bach’s Lutheran chorales. He knew that audiences would recognise them and be able to sing them in the same way Bach’s congregation sang the chorales. Embodying texts and music of an inherently universal significance, they flow unselfconsciously out of the simplicity of Tippett’s structure and musical language, ensuring that the emotional power of this work never fails.

Orchestral Cast



I "The world turns on its dark side"
II "Man has measured the heavens'"
III "Is evil then good?"
IV "Now in each nation"
V "When shall the usurer's city cease?"
VI "I have no money for my bread"
VII "How can I cherish my man in such days?"
VIII "Steal away"
IX "A star rises in midwinter"
X "And a time came"
XI "Away with them!"
XII "Where they could, they fled from the terror"
XIII "We cannot have them in our Empire"
XIV "And the boy's mother wrote a letter saying"
XV "O my son!
XVI "Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord"
XVII "The boy becomes desperate in his agony"
XVIII "They took a terrible vengeance"
XIX "Burn down their houses!"
XX "Men are ashamed of what was done"
XXI "Go down, Moses"
XXII "My dreams are all shattered"
XXIII "What have I done to you my son?"
XXIV "The dark forces rise like a flood" - XXV "Oh, by and by"
XXVI "The cold deepens" - XXVII "The soul of man is impassioned like a woman"
XXVIII "The words of wisdom are these"
XXIX "I would know my shadow and my light"
XXX "Deep river" 

More Information

A Child of Our Time
Oratorio for soloists (SATB), chorus and orchestra
text by the composer
Performance material
Schott Music
Year of composition:
1939 - 1941
66 ′
World Premiere:
March 19, 1944 · London (UK)
Adelphi Theatre
Joan Cross, soprano; Margaret McArthur, alto; Peter Pears, tenor; Roderick Lloyd, bass · Conductor: Walter Goehr · London Philharmonic Orchestra · London Region Civil Defence Choir; Morley College Choir


Technical Details

Product number:
LSL 4010-01


Set Ascending Direction
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    Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
    Orchestra: Cambridge University Orchestra
    January 20, 2024 | Cambridge (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , King's College Chapel
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    Conductor: Gerald de Vries
    Orchestra: Staatsorchester Braunschweig
    November 18, 2023 | Goslar (Germany) , St. Cosmas und Damian
  • A Child of Our Time
    Conductor: Frank Löhr
    Orchestra: Orchester der Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover
    October 13, 2023 | Hannover (Germany) , Richard Jakoby-Saal
  • A Child of Our Time
    Edinburgh International Festival 2023
    Conductor: Andrew Davis
    Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    August 20, 2023 | Edinburgh (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) , Usher Hall
  • Set Ascending Direction

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