Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK opened the evening, the first of a week of concerts in the Crossing Borders Festival, reminding us of the significance of Refugee Week, in a year when there has been much talk of a “refugee crisis”:
“The crisis in Europe is one of politics. A failure to respond together as governments across Europe and to recognise the extraordinary times in which we live’.” She continued, “It is the work that we do together, the welcome we display, the humanity we show that will make a difference.”
Conductor Peter Michael Davison led the orchestra in gorgeous renditions of pieces by Benjamin Britten, a pacifist who fled to American to avoid military service, and Shostakovich, who wrote String Quartet No 8 when he was forced to join the Soviet Union’s Communist Party and Samuel Barber. The audience was clearly moved throughout, but particularly by the exquisite voice of Greek soloist Danae Eleni singing Britten’s “les illuminations”, musical settings of poems by Arthur Rimbaud to his lover Verlaine. Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings was performed by the Brussels Philharmonic in front of the Brussels Stock Exchange following the 2016 bombings, and, as Siriol Hugh Jones, curator of the Festival, said, evokes perfectly the tragic images of refugees struggling across Europe that we have seen over the past year.
The concert also featured works by the Brighton artist Gil Mualem Doron and Bern O’Donoghue. Doron’s “New Union Flag” is made up of patters representing all the countries from which refugees and migrants come to the UK and is being displayed at all the concert venues before the work moves to the new Turner gallery in Margate. O’Donoghue’s installation, draped over the pulpit, consisted of a paper boat for each of the 3,771 lives lost crossing the Mediterranean in 2015.
The Crossing Borders Festival, was created this year by cellist Siriol Hugh-Jones for Sanctuary on Sea and continues throughout Refugee Week until Sunday 26 June.
More information at www.crossingbordersfestival.co.uk . For other Refugee Week events see https://brighton-and-hove.cityofsanctuary.org/refugee-week