The Lamentations of Jeremiah

This evening I’m going to this concert, which I’ve been looking forward to for some time.

It may be sombre and melancholy, but the setting of The Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis is also astonishingly beautiful and it’s been one of my favourite choral works for many years. In fact it’s one of the most frequently played recordings on my iPod because I turn to it when I need to listen something peaceful and reflective. I have never heard it performed live, however, so this will be a treat for me. To give you a taster, here is the work (performed by The Sixteen):

P.S. The Hebrew text of the Book of Lamentations is remarkable for being in the form of an acrostic, with each verse starting with consecutive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Tallis sets verses from the Latin (Vulgate) translation, but includes the initial letters of the Hebrew version: Aleph, Beth, etc..

UPDATE: I went to the concert as planned. Very enjoyable it was, though I was a bit surprised to find the two parts of The Lamentations of Jeremiah were not performed one after the other but either side of two motets by Lukaszewski. I guess this is to emphasise that they are separate pieces rather than one 20-minute long work but I always listen to them together.

The concert had an interval of about 25 minutes but, lamentably, no drinks were on sale…

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8 Responses to “The Lamentations of Jeremiah”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Lamentations is written by the prophet Jeremiah (I see no reason to doubt the attribution, which the Jews have always believed) as he wanders around Jerusalem after it has fallen to the Babylonian invaders, and the ruling classes of the city have been deported to Babylon as slaves. (They would remain there 70 years until the Persians trashed Babylon and their king, Cyrus, told the Jews that they were free to go home.) Jeremiah was one of the few men who saw the Babylonian victory coming, as his earlier prophecies reveal; most Jews believed, in contrast, that God could never abandon the Temple in the city, no matter how badly they broke the code of Laws of Moses. Scant comfort to Jeremiah was his foresight.

    As Wikipedia states,

    Lamentations consists of five distinct poems, corresponding to its five chapters. The first four are written as acrostics – chapters 1, 2, and 4 each have 22 verses, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the first lines beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second with the second letter, and so on. Chapter 3 has 66 verses, so that each letter begins three lines, and the fifth poem is not acrostic but still has 22 lines.

    The Bible teacher David Pawson has written a 26-line English acrostic that conveys the message of Lamentations. It begins:

    Awful is the sight of the ruined city,
    Blood flows down the streets.
    Catastrophe has come to my people,
    Dreadful is their fate.
    Every house has been destroyed,
    Families are broken for ever.
    God promised he would do this –
    Holy is his name.
    I am worn out with weeping…

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      PS It’s interesting that the same dynasty of Persians appears as goodies in the Bible and as baddies in the other main strand of historic Western civilisation, namely ancient Greece.

  2. “The concert had an interval of about 25 minutes but, lamentably, no drinks were on sale…”

    Which means they took in less money. Less profit, more prophet. 🙂

    • Anton Garrett Says:

      I like Peter’s “lamentably”.

    • telescoper Says:

      It was performed in a Church, but such events usually offer the opportunity to buy drinks in the interval. I think the absence this time might have been because it is Lent, during which one is supposed to abstain.

      • You should have just turned some water into wine. 🙂

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        it is Lent, during which one is supposed to abstain

        That is probably a tradition of the church in which the concert took place, but nowhere in the New Testament are Christians instructed to give anything pleasurable up for the 40 days before the anniversary of the Crucifixion, and nowadays I don’t.

      • telescoper Says:

        For the record St German’s Church is of the Church of Wales (Anglican)

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