Recordings made for The Law is a Living Thing Tour of the moving song cycle Dreams of Peace & Freedom, which interweaves words taken from the letters and speeches of human rights champion David Maxwell Fyfe with musical settings of poetry that inspired him. It offers an intimate insight into the birth of modern human rights in Europe.
Conceived by Tom Blackmore with original music by Sue Casson.
Voices 1 & 3 Lily Blackmore
Piano & Voice 2 Sue Casson
Narrator/Voice Robert Blackmore
David Maxwell Fyfe was born in Edinburgh at the turn of the last century, the only son of headmaster William and Isabella Fyfe. He died in Sussex 66 years later Earl Kilmuir, having notably held office as Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Privy Councillor.
As British Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials he headed the British legal team and conducted its day to day business in the courtroom, including a famous cross examination of Herman Goering. After 10 months of forensic examination of Nazi atrocities, in his closing speech as he strove to conjure what might be built on the foundations of the Nazi Armageddon, Maxwell Fyfe was inspired by Rupert Brooke’s War Sonnet V, The Soldier.
‘It might be presumptuous of lawyers who did not claim to be more than the cement of society to speculate or even dream of what we wish to see in place of the Nazi spirit, but I give you the faith of a lawyer some things are surely universal: tolerance, decency, kindliness. When such qualities have been given the chance to flourish in the ground that you have cleared, a great step will have been taken. It will be a step towards the universal recognition that:
‘…sights and sounds, dreams happy as her day,
And laughter learnt of friends, and gentleness,
In hearts at peace…’
are not the prerogative of any one country. They are the inalienable heritage of mankind.’
From The Magna Carta
James Logie Robertson
This song cycle was inspired by David Maxwell Fyfe’s commitment to the cause of human rights. His words, and some of his wife and muse Sylvia, are woven with musical free settings of Rupert Brooke’s War Sonnets and a poem by Edinburgh poet James Logie Robertson, Non Semper Imbres, which grew to have a special significance for him. Spoken words have been selected by Tom Blackmore from David Maxwell Fyfe’s papers and speeches, and personal letters exchanged with his wife during the Nuremberg trials. There are also extracts from his autobiography, A Political Adventure.
A brief word on the introduction and conclusion
In 1957, the American Bar Association paid for the erection of a monument to the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Its’ opening coincided with a visit made by the Association to Britain. By this time Maxwell Fyfe was Lord Chancellor and his welcome to them in Westminster Hall included the words that you will hear alongside a brief setting of Magna Carta, that echo of liberty whose anniversary we commemorate next year.
While working on this music, I independently set the words of Julian of Norwich, in which hopeful vein we close
Dreams of Peace and Freedom.
Dreams of Peace & Freedom
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