Who is my neighbour? is a new musical presentation of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan - in which the characters of the original parable are fused with mythical and musical elements from Arab and Jewish cultural history. Written by the British composer Antony Pitts specially for the joint forces of Dal'ouna and Fifth Quadrant, Who is my neighbour? combines ritualized movement with musical gestures and colours from both Western and Middle Eastern sources. The birthplace of the Good Samaritan story and its Story-teller have long exerted a magnetic influence on the composer: over the last two decades Pitts has produced a number of artistic responses to the region's history, including several substantial broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, culminating in the composition of a complete oratorio called Jerusalem-Yerushalayimwhich tells the Old Testament story of the city.
The original Good Samaritan story (from the New Testament) is simple enough: it starts with a journey through harsh landscapes – the desert road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Somewhere along the road a man is mugged; two passers-by pass by without stopping to help; a third stops and takes serious care of the victim. The sting in the tale is that, under ordinary circumstances, the victim (a Jew) and his rescuer (a Samaritan) would utterly despise each other - and this is the point of the Story-teller in answering the original question, "Who is my neighbour?".
...But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, "And who is my neighbour?" Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?" And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37)
In this contemporary retelling, the audience is asked to imagine that that same story has been transplanted in time to today's troubled Middle East, perhaps with Handala - the Palestinian kid of contemporary legend, forever 10 years old - as the one left to die on the side of the road, and his 'Good Samaritan' a wandering Jew - even the Wandering Jew of mediaeval anti-Semitic propaganda, apparently doomed to journey for ever. Whichever way round you tell the story, and whoever is asking the question, "Who is my neighbour?", the final answer "Go and do likewise..." resonates more strongly than ever.
As a foretaste of the completed piece Who is my neighbour? for Fifth Quadrant and Dal'ouna, Antony has written an abridged violin and viola duo version, simply called Neighbours? It was heard in public for the first time at the Road to Jericho launch (London, 8/2/11) in a performance by Simon Hewitt Jones and Drew Balch, with narration by the composer's 11-year-old son, Raphael Pitts, and is now available for download from iTunes.
"...My first impulse on hearing this disc [Alpha and Omega, Hyperion CDA67668] was to commend it unreservedly to each and every man, woman, and child on the planet, including those who think they don't like religious music, choral music, or music..." Fanfare, USA
"Kick yourself if you missed: Antony Pitts' extraordinary sound collage, A Parisian in Paradise, on Radio 3... Mind-blowing." The Independent on Sunday Review of the Year
"Antony Pitts's collection of choral music has the potential to be a real runaway success. His is a compositional voice of real personality and imagination (no surprise to those of us who have admired Pitts's work as a truly original producer at BBC Radio 3)... here's a collection of new music that has immediate appeal..." Gramophone, Editor's Choice
"Not yet 40, Antony Pitts, together with John Rutter and Taverner is perhaps one of the most sought-after British composers of contemporary choral works... The first Hyperion issue dedicated to choral works by this prodigious composer got some truly rave reviews, and this second disc will undoubtedly make its mark... this is a sumptuously beautiful disc on all counts." Classical.net
"One of the things that makes the sacred a cappella work of Antony Pitts (born 1969) stand out from that of the many excellent emerging choral composers of his generation is his fearless defiance of harmonic and melodic conventions; just when you think he's heading for an easy landing, he veers off into unexpected, exhilaratingly wild territory... Pitts is a composer to watch out for: these remarkably assured and compelling works should be of strong interest to any fan of contemporary choral music." AllMusic
"Antony Pitts, a composer not yet 40 years of age, has rapidly crafted a place for himself as one of Britain's more enterprising writers of choral music..." International Record Review
Antony Pitts MA (Oxon), HonFFCM was born in 1969 and sang as a boy in the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace. An Academic Scholar and later Honorary Senior Scholar at New College, Oxford, he gained the joint highest mark in Moderations and a First-Class Honours degree in Music in 1990. Since then his music has been premiered in Westminster Cathedral and Wigmore Hall in London, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and the Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal in Berlin. He has been commissioned to write for the Berlin Radio Choir, Cambridge Voices, Cappella Pratensis, The Clerks, the Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy, European Chamber Opera, Festival of the Voice, Fifth Quadrant, King's College London, the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, New Chamber Opera, Oxford Camerata, the Oxford Festival of Contemporary Music, Schola Cantorum of Oxford, the Swingle Singers, and the Choir of Westminster Cathedral. His double-choir mass setting for the Illustre Lieve Vrouwe Broederschap in the Netherlands was the first to be commissioned by the foundation for almost 500 years; part of his Requiem was written for and sung at the memorials for Alexander Litvinenko; his oratorio Jerusalem-Yerushalayim received a standing ovation at its premiere in Northern Ireland. Various scores of his music are published by Faber Music, notably the 40-part motet XL and The Naxos Book of Carols - commissioned by the world's leading classical music label Naxos. Further recordings of his music are available on Harmonia Mundi, Naxos, Signum, and Unknown Public, and Hyperion have released two complete CDs of his choral works sung by TONUS PEREGRINUS – one of which was a Gramophone Editor's Choice; their performance of his choral arrangement of the Tears for Fears hit Mad World is available exclusively on iTunes.
Antony's career as a composer, director, producer, and lecturer has combined academic, industry, and professional musical experience at world-class levels: a decade-long association with the Royal Academy of Music culminating in an internationally-recognized research project as a Senior Lecturer; a rich and varied output as a BBC Senior Producer marked by ground-breaking practice in sound design and an exceptional catalogue of awards and nominations; and a creative record as a composer, scholar, and performer with an acclaimed series of recordings of milestones of early Western music with TONUS PEREGRINUS. He founded TONUS PEREGRINUS while still at New College and in 2004 won a Cannes Classical Award for his interpretation of Arvo Pärt's Passio with the ensemble - also a UK No.1 and another Gramophone Editor's Choice. He joined the BBC in 1992, and worked for many years as a Producer and Senior Producer for Radio 3; he received the Radio Academy BT Award for Facing the Radio in 1995, and has been nominated no fewer than eight times for the most prestigious international radio award, the Prix Italia, winning in 2004 with A Pebble in the Pond. He has also presented series on the music of Olivier Messiaen, Guillaume de Machaut, Hildegard of Bingen and Arvo Pärt, and has guest-presented BBC Radio 4's Something Understood. At the Royal Academy of Music he pioneered new courses in both Composition and Creative Technology, and has presented research on his musicDNA project at conferences across Europe (http://www.musicDNA.info). Antony is married to Karen, and they live with their children in East Sussex. He is currently working on an opera telling the story of Western music.
"...it turned out it was by Antony Pitts of TONUS PEREGRINUS, who has remarkable ways with music..." The Independent on Sunday
"A composer on a spiritual quest who's found the near-perfect singers for it..." Gramophone
"...a unique, strong, and, above all, spiritual voice seems to speak through." Church Times