Desert Island Discs: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

At nineteen I found myself starting my second year at Cambridge, four and a half thousand miles from home and the single mother of a three week old baby boy.

The music I’ve chosen for this section of my life is the second movement of Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs:Lento e Largo – Tranquillissimo. After the horrors of the Second World War, Gorecki wrote a three piece symphony for solo soprano and orchestra. The second movement takes as its lyrics the words scratched on the wall of a Gestapo cell by eighteen year old Helena Wanda Blazusiakowna: O Mamo, nie płacz, nie. Niebios Przeczysta Królowo, Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie (Oh Mamma do not cry, no. Immaculate Queen of Heaven, you support me always).

Of course I would never dream of comparing my situation to hers, or to the suffering of billions around the world even today. Mine were first world problems, I know. The reason I’ve chosen it is that it voices the profound loneliness I felt. As well as the physical isolation of the long summer vacations, stuck in Cambridge when everyone else had gone home or was travelling, I was alone in my situation.

Even now, twenty years on, I’ve never met anyone who shares my experiences. But I have met other people who have come through difficult times and remained positive about the future. Because as well as being a sorrowful song, the piece I’ve chosen is also a bold one, and full of faith.

4 thoughts on “Desert Island Discs: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”

  1. I’ve just listened to the symphony. Powerful piece; brave and honest blog post. I have also felt that loneliness as a teenager. And, I have been challenged with situations where my faith in the future is what has kept me going. From reading your blog, I have the impression that you are one of the positive people. I am too. For me, the alternative would make for a bleaker and less fulfilling life. I choose the light.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, I agree that optimism and positivity are the best way forward, if at all possible. And, fortunately for me, my faith in the future was well founded. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate in all sorts of ways.

      1. For others in my family, medicine and therapy has made their world a much happier and less anxious place. Sometimes, a little outside help is needed too!

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