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Music in the Park

British composer's work highlights Memorial Day weekend show at Millennium Park

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The U.S. premiere of British composer Richard Blackford’s powerful oratorio, “Not in Our Time,” will be presented by the Northwestern University Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music during a Memorial Day weekend concert at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 27, in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Commissioned by the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus for its centenary, the work premiered in England on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Blackford’s oratorio takes its title from the Hilda Doolittle poem “Not in our time, O Lord, the ploughshare for the sword.”

Admission-free and open to the public, the May 27 outdoor program will take place in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at 201 E. Randolph St. It will feature conductor Robert A. Harris, the Northwestern University Symphony Orchestra, University Chorale and Chorus, University Women’s Chorus, Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, and two alumni soloists -- tenor Harold Brock and bass-baritone David Govertsen.

Blackford’s 55-minute work commemorates the events of 9/11 with a libretto that includes poems on holy war and divinely sanctioned violence from the First Crusade to 9/11 to a speech by President Barack Obama. Opening and closing with words by George W. Bush and Obama, the work ultimately shares a message of hope for peace between cultures and faiths. It received glowing reviews by British press.

The May 27 program will also feature selections from Robert A. Harris’ “Gloria,” a work for soprano solo, choir and orchestra.

Conductor Harris, a member of the Bienen School faculty, is also a composer, clinician and adjudicator throughout the United States and abroad. He has received the Bienen School of Music Exemplar in Teaching Award and the Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award. Harris, who is retiring, will be conducting his final Northwestern concert at this event.

The Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, which celebrated its centenary in 2011, has received a Gramophone Choral Award and a Grammy for its recordings. It has performed with conductors Marin Alsop, Yakov Kreizberg, Richard Hickox, Tamas Vasary, Andrew Litton, and Mark Elder.

For more information, call the Pick-Staiger Concert Office at (847) 491-5441 or visit

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