Suffolk murders end Britten sea interlude

Just two weeks ago I wrote about the moving anniversary performance of Benjamin Britten's cantata St Nicholas at Snape Maltings, and ended with these words about the singers - "their faces radiated youth, exuberance, total innocence, and above all a dazzling hope for the future". Elsewhere the thirtieth anniversary of Benjamin Britten's death was celebrated with loving descriptions of his native Aldeburgh and the surrounding Suffolk countryside.

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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Pliable said…
Email from Ipswich

Thank you for this article which makes a number of points about the nature of our society which need making.

One point of information; St Mary-le-Tower is not near the red light district.

One opinion: I do not consider Ipswich to be a characterless place, despite the best efforts of 1960s developers and planners. Your view is, I have to admit, one widely held in Norfolk.

Robert Oakhill
Pliable said…
Breaking news:

Man held over prostitute murders

A 37-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murdering five women found dead at sites around Ipswich.

The man was arrested at his home at Trimley, near Felixstowe on Monday morning.

He was arrested on suspicion of murdering Gemma Adams, Anneli Alderton, Tania Nicol, Paula Clennell and Annette Nicholls, police said.

Police added the man was being held at an unnamed police station in Suffolk and would be questioned later.


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