Jonathan Dove's new work for the BBC Symphony Chorus, We Are One Fire, premieres on 19 August 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall. Opening Prom 43 (which also includes Dieter Ammann's Piano Concerto Beethoven's Ninth Symphony) We Are One Fire features a new text written by long-time collaborator Alasdair Middleton and is a festive 90th birthday present for the BBC Symphony Chorus, who have regularly given splendid performances of Dove's music at the Proms.
“All men become brothers”, says Schiller in his Ode to Joy, and knowing that these words would be sung in the second half of the concert, Dove found himself reflecting that twentieth-century archaeology showed us that we are all indeed brothers and sisters.
Expressed in A History of the World in One Hundred Objects, its author, Neil MacGregor, explains that archaeologist Louis Leakey’s 1931 excavations “produced the oldest known humanly made things anywhere in the world at that time, and they demonstrated that not only human beings but also human culture had begun in Africa… [they] did more than push humans back in time: they made it clear that all of us descend from those African ancestors, that every one of us is part of a huge African diaspora – we all have Africa in our DNA and all our culture began there.”
MacGregor quotes Nobel Peace Prize-winner Wangari Maathai: “The information we have tells us that we came from somewhere in eastern Africa. Because we are so used to being divided along ethnic lines, along racial lines, and we look all the time for reasons to be different from each other, it must be surprising to some of us to realize that what differentiates us is usually very superficial, like the colour of our skin or the colour of our eyes or the texture of our hair, but that essentially we are all from the same stem, the same origin.”
Wanting to celebrate this shared ancestry, Dove searched for suitable words to express these thoughts in song. But these are relatively recent ideas, still evolving, and hard to find in lyric form, so Dove asked Alasdair Middleton to write a new text specially for this commission. Dove already had an idea of the kind of choral music he wanted to write: something joyous and tribal, but not using (or copying) any traditional music from another country.
Prom 43 takes place at the Royal Albert Hall on 19 August 2019 at 7.30pm.