Occupation

A couple of months ago, I was casually contemplating my participation in WNO’s online project Occupation. With four other artists I was allotted a two-week window in which a song related to an ongoing public protest would be written, recorded and filmed. Time did its usual speedy thing, and now it’s my fortnight. Suddenly we (librettist Tim Hopkins and I) had to decide what to write about. Surveying the news media closely for a couple of weeks was an interesting break from ‘work’; but many of the stories we followed– dead students in Mexico, dead schoolboys in Nigeria – were so tragic as to make any artistic comment irrelevant.

With the advantage of having no time to wait, the obvious story made itself known. Quite independently of any project, I’ve been avidly following the story of the Occupy Central protest in Hong Kong since it started at the end of September. The idealism of the mostly very young people wanting to protect the right to vote for freely chosen candidates is heartwarming. I’ve taught many students from Hong Kong over the years, and I’ve been reminded of them by these recent news stories. But as an online reader of the South China Morning Post over the last weeks I also realise that the majority of Hong Kongers are by now frustrated by the protest camps, inconveniently (and surprisingly) in place eight weeks later. Bailiffs (you can tell that HK is an ex- British colony) are starting to break down the camps this week, but at the moment of writing, quite a lot still remains.

I’ve written music for a song called The Sleeping Mat Ballad, about life in a protest camp, which will be recorded by Rebecca Afonwy Jones and then filmed by Margaret Constantas early next week. (You can follow our progress via Facebook and Twitter.)

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer

© Judith Weir, 2020