HUMAN RIGHTS ORATORIO

The Institute for Human Rights Education (I.H.R.E.) in South Africa received a request early in l996 from Andrew Young, Mayor of Atlanta, USA, to commission a full length Oratorio, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This Work was to be performed at the Atlanta City Hall during the Opening of the Olympic Games In Atlanta l996. A handful of local composers were invited to compose sections of the work and the original words were adapted by Doris Ravenhill for the South African context.

In order that the whole work should be thematically linked it was decided to use two 4-note themes derived from the initials I.H.R.E. and U.D.H.R. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights). This in musical notes is:- BADE AND GDAE.

Section 6, the longest section, was allocated to Jeanne Zaidel-Rudolph to set to music. This deals with Social Security, Work and Rest, Standard of Living, Education, Culture and Copyright.

This Human Rights Oratorio by Zaidel-Rudolph is scored for full orchestra, soprano solo, baritone solo, and mixed SATB choir. An African Percussion Section uses the Gembe Drum, 2 Dumdumbas, and Shakers made of pods.

The piece begins with a Timpani figure in 4ths which is joined by the Brass in a Fanfare-like crescendo. The Strings join with a marked dotted rhythm. The piece alternates between choral sections and solo singing. Melodies are simple, modally based and in syncopated rhythms. One of the central themes about labour is based on the modal melody sung by the High Priests in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem during Services. There is a central “lullaby” in irregular metre with rocking motion. The section on “EDUCATION’ which follows, uses a rather jazzy, syncopated melody. African elements are used harmonically and rhythmically. The same fanfare heralds the end of the piece with soloists joining the choir in a grand climax.

Michael Findlay, in a radio broadcast of the piece on Human Rights Day, remarked that Zaidel-Rudolph wrote excellent music for rather unlyrical words.