Suffer The Children [Cantata] (2007)


and chamber orchestra

Additional Information

This cantata was an emotional and spiritual response to the siege of a school in Russia, by Chechen rebels and the resulting death of 186 children.

The cantata is concerned with the thoughts and emotions of a bereaved parent. It begins with darkness and despair yet ends with a feeling of hope and rejoicing. The text combines fragments of the Requiem Mass with the poetry of one of my relatives following the death of her son. The final Lullaby is a Cradle Song by Isaac Watts.

The Baritone represents the bereaved parent and the work is in seven movements following a short introduction. The usual joy of the Easter message is dragged down by the parent’s grief. The Burial depicts cold and emptiness, and the chorus sing fragments of the Requiem as the Baritone remembers the life of his child.

Following The Lord’s Prayer, the grief of the parent turns to despair, in Where?. Here the chorus have two roles. First they reinforce the anger of the parent, via rhythmically repetitive phrases. Then, after a silence, they become the comforter with Jesus’ words: “Suffer the children to come unto me.” The anger in the parent subsides as he sings to his dead child: “O my child, my precious child, where are you now? Hush my dear!”

The Message is the turning point of the work. The Soprano solo represents the spirit of the dead child who tells his father not to be sad because he is free of worldly troubles. As a spirit he can be with his father at all times. In Paradisum represents the peaceful passing of the soul into Paradise.

The Lord Shall Wipe Away The Tears heralds the optimism of the words “Christ is risen!” and “Spring is here!” and this is reinforced with a triumphant, fugal “Alleluia”.

The final Lullaby is for voices and muted strings. The parent and child join together and with the chorus are united in their love for each other.


This was performed and recorded in Stockton Parish Church by the Tees Valley Youth Choir and Orchestra. The Baritone is Dominic Barberi and the Soprano is It is conducted by John Forsyth MBE.



Seamer Nr Middlesbrough
United Kingdom



Date recorded
Tees Valley Youth Choir and Orchestra
Stockton-on-Tees Parish Church