Our last words
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Our last words, for choir and pilgrim’s staffs. Lyrics based on authentic quotes from death penalty prisoners facing execution.
”How would you act if you knew that there were only hours or minutes remaining of your life, the short pilgrimage we are entrusted on earth? Express hate towards your enemies or seek reconciliation with God and men?
How do we interpret the last words people say facing the final departure, and how can an insight in this situation effect us? Where do we stand when accused and innocent humans are threatened to lose their lives with cruel methods?
Death penalty is still a reality in 50 countries all over the world, and thousands of people are executed every year in for instance China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Vietnam and the US. This issue is one of the most important to fight for in the struggle for humanity and civil rights.
The choir piece Our last words allows a number of silenced voices – facing execution – to come forward in emotional goodbyes, pleads for forgiveness, assurances of innocence and wise advices to the survivors. Yes, there is a hint of revolt against the eye-for-an-eyementality and retaliation, but maybe the piece deals mostly with our common ontological longing of condonation? Is there a divine grace for us all: sinners, victims and executioners?
Our last words is not completely a cappella. Thuds from four staffs is heard here and there as to emphasize the final words of a pilgrim; a percussive interpunction when life and death is about to be summed up, even echoes of the hammer-blows from the most famous crucifixion in history.
Christe eleison …
Our last words was commissioned 2017 by the St. John Chamber Choir in Malmö, with grants from Southern Choral Centre, Sweden. The piece is dedicated to the choir and their conductor Christian Schultze. First performance in the Church of St. Paul, Malmö, Sweden in October 2017.” – Kjell Perder