These idyllic images were cruelly shattered last week with five serial murders in Ipswich, the county town of Suffolk, which lies just twenty miles west of Aldeburgh. The facts are grim. Ipswich is a characterless town whose heart was ripped out by World War 2 bombing of the docks. Over ten days five prostitutes working in the town's red light district (photo above) have been brutally murdered and their bodies dumped in the surrounding countryside. The average age of the victims was twenty-four, and one was pregnant. In contrast to the commercial lie of Christmas we have been confronted with brutal truths. The truth about a society in which cocaine and crack addiction forces young girls into the vicious spiral of prostitution. The truth about a society in which male demand fuels a sordid female market. And above all, the truth about a society where at Christmas time we have once again failed the poor and vulnerable.
In a terrible coincidence singers from Ipswich schools took part in Britten's own recording of St Nicholas in 1955. One choir came from Ipswich School Preparatory Department, while the three pickled boys came from the Choir of St Mary-le-Tower, the civic church of the town located close to the red light district. The five young murder victims from that Ipswich red light district have been denied their youth, their exuberance, their innocence, and any dazzling hope for their future. These dreadful events serve as a stark reminder that Britten's music is no more about idyllic Suffolk seascapes than Mozart's is about Salzburg chocolate treats. One of Britten's greatest work, Peter Grimes, is about the outcast, the prejudices of the community, and the desperate search for justice. These are themes that are more relevant in Suffolk today than they ever have been.
+ Now playing in memory of Tania Nichols, 19, Gemma Adams, 25, Anneli Alderton, 24, Annette Nichols, 29, and Paula Clennel, 24 - Britten's Cantata misericordium op. 69 +
A recurring theme in Britten's music is a belief in a better and more harmonious society. The Cantata misericordium could not be more relevant at this terrible time with its setting of the most famous story of compassion and reconciliation, the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The work is scored for tenor and baritone soloists, a small chorus, solo string quartet, and string orchestra, with piano, harp, and timpani. The recording playing (above) is the only one you will ever need, Britten conducts and the soloists are Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
* Latest news on the Suffolk murders from the BBC News website
Read how Now men will go content with what we spoiled
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