Henryk Gorecki

Just a few weeks ago, the Polish composer Henryk Goretski died. He was a relatively obscure figure until Dawn Upshaw and the London Sinfonietta made a recording of his 3rd Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. It was a piece of music that Goretski had written in honour of the many millions who had perished in the holocaust. It is hard to imagine what could be done to transform the dark shadow that the Holocaust casts over the whole of humanity. It was an eruption of brutality that occurred in the heart of western civilisation. The cries from the ghettos and gas chambers were heard in the Universities and cities of a supposedly enlightened Europe. The Holocaust called into question the whole project of the Modern World.
In the creation of a beautiful, heart-stoppingly moving and powerful piece of music, Goretski helps us all to begin to imagine a new world of healing, humaneness and reconciliation which might be created out of the ashes of that terrible moment in our shared history.
As Goretski put it himself, “perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music. Somehow I hit the right note, something they were missing. Something, somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed”.
Today, many of the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, who have known the brutality of war for so long, are yearning for a new way that puts an end to brutality and hate and that makes their lives more secure. People long for peaceful cities.
Across the world, communities yearn for a new order of economics too, that fosters justice for people and for the planet and puts an end to the plundering destructiveness of an economy based on pandering to endless demands that has brutalised us all and threatens the very fabric and health of the planet.
It all makes me wonder about this idea of longing and waiting. I think of Goretski’s music and I wonder if the answer to our longing is that what we chose to do in the very next moment really matters. To sit on our hands lamenting that God has not intervened to put the world to rights is no kind of response. In creating beauty, even out of the chaos of destruction and human folly, we are fulfilling our calling as creative human beings, made in the image of God.


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