Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo
SATB vocal score
Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo tells the extraordinary story of Nujeen Mustafa, a Kurdish teenager with cerebral palsy forced by war to flee her home and embark on an arduous journey to Europe with her sister. In this five-movement cantata Nujeen's story - recounted in her biography 'The Girl from Aleppo' (co-authored by Christina Lamb) - is retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland and richly scored by Cecilia McDowall. A wealth of musical effects are employed to capture the narrative, including chorales, rhythmic spoken sections, body percussion, and a solo violin part infused with Middle Eastern flavours. The prevailing mood of Nujeen's story is embodied by the final line of a chorale that bookends this unique concert work: 'singing the song of life itself.'
Wherever one looks, innocent children are caught up in conflict. During these last years alone, thousands and thousands of child refugees have trekked from Syria to Turkey and on into Europe in search of asylum.
One of these children was Nujeen Mustafa, a Kurdish teenager with cerebral palsy. She was pushed in her wheelchair by her elder sister, Nasrine, from Aleppo to Germany. Unsurprisingly, her journey was the subject of much publicity and followed by journalists Christina Lamb (co-author of I am Malala) and Fergal Keane. Throughout many months Nujeen remained stunningly brave, blithe and articulate, never missing an opportunity to speak the language she had learned in a fourth-floor flat in Aleppo by watching American quiz shows, soaps and cookery programmes.
In this cantata Nujeen's story unfolds in the musical narrative; chorales, haunting vocal solos, intense solo violin playing, restless choruses, body percussion, all driving a course from country to country to arrive, thankfully, in Germany. It is a journey of hope and extraordinary fortitude against all the odds.
Commissioned by The National Children's Choir of Great Britain on its 20th Anniversary and first performed by the Choirs in Birmingham Town Hall on 10 August, 2018, Harriet Mackenzie, violin, Claire Dunham, piano, conducted by Dan Ludford-Thomas.
Â© Cecilia McDowall and Kevin Crossley-Holland