At the end of March with lockdown upon us, Chorus members were banished to their spare rooms with a laptop, ipad, headphones and their mobiles. We were to appear virtually on the Brighton Festival at Home site with a recording of No Rack Can Torture Me as one of the many performing bodies whose concerts had been cancelled. Music arrived by email from James with exhortations to follow the backing track, record ourselves on our phones and send back to him, preferably with a video. The results, despite our individual misgivings about our singing and videoing abilities, were then woven together by James to be uploaded to YouTube.
No Rack Can Torture Me is a setting of a poem by Emily Dickinson taken from Invictus – Cantata for Liberty, commissioned by BFC from composers Morgan Pochin to celebrate 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta. We performed the World Premier in the Dome in June 2015 with the Brighton Festival Youth Choir and 150 other young people from schools across Brighton and Hove. The themes of the piece, Liberty, Freedom and Equality, seemed strangely appropriate for the unprecedented and strange time we found ourselves in. The repeated refrain ‘my soul’s at liberty’ highlights the fact that life would and will go on, albeit differently.
Similar feelings of regeneration and tranquility are at the heart of the poem by Lemm Sissay which Juliette Pochin arranged for the Brighton Festival Youth Choir. ‘Let There Be Peace’ is both the title and the underlying theme of this beautiful poem. Another triumph of modern technology brought the young voices together with a freshness and vitality which radiated optimism for the future.