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LISTEN: Archbishop on Britten's "extraordinary" War Requiem

Tuesday 14th May 2013

Archbishop Justin talks to Radio 4 about Benjamin Britten's famous meditation on war. Read about it below or listen again

In this Radio 4 interview, the Archbishop of Canterbury selects Benjamin Britten's War Requiem (Op.66) as his contribution to the Cultural Exchange slot on Radio 4's Front Row programme. Britten wrote his famous meditation on war for the 1962 consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original was destroyed in the blitz of 1940.
The Archbishop said he had no sense that the impending centenary of World War I, which will come during his time as Anglican leader, would be "triumphalist" for Britons. 

Benjamin Britten's famous War Requiem (Op.66) "absolutely gripped" the Archbishop of Canterbury as a child and has seemed to "follow" him through life since. 

The Archbishop was speaking with Mark Lawson on the Cultural Exchange slot of weeknight arts programme Front Row. 

Britten wrote his famous meditation on war for the 1962 consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral, which was built after the original was destroyed in the blitz of 1940.

In the interview, broadcast last night, the Archbishop said the Requiem was "so powerful" when performed at Coventry Cathedral, which has become an international beacon of reconciliation. 

The Archbishop was previously a sub-dean and canon of Coventry Cathedral and led its peace work in war zones around the world. 

"When I was working there, I remember very senior military people coming into the Cathedral and bursting into tears and saying, 'This expresses so much of our experience'. And the War Requiem somehow turned that into music."

Archbishop Justin said that as spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, which spans 167 countries and 80 million people, it was "a fairly rare day" when he was not engaging with people who are "in the middle of serious conflict". 

He said we have "yet to see" what the mood in Britain will be about the anniverary of World War One, which will fall during his time as Anglican leader.

But he added: "I don't have any sense it will be triumphalist." 

Listen to the interview

 


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