Composer inspired by Jewish headstone inscriptions

By Sandy Rashty, September 28, 2012
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A British composer has composed an hour-long requiem featuring inscriptions from Jewish gravestones in London — and playwright Sir Arnold Wesker, singing.

Benjamin Till, 38, said he was inspired to create the London Requiem after he was moved by an inscription on the gravestone of a Jewish doctor buried in Highgate cemetery.

“It said, ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’

“It was astonishing and told me something about her that I could take away with me. It set me off on this odyssey to find gravestones across London which also had that kind of impact and avoided all the usual clichés.

“I went everywhere, and I don’t know why, but half the quotes were from Jewish gravestones in West Ham, Hoop Lane and Kensal Green.

“There’s a celebration of life in Jewish culture, even shown by the many people who wear a Chai [Hebrew for ‘life’] around their neck.”

Soloists in the CD of the London Requiem include actors Barbara Windsor, Matt Lucas and Sir Arnold Wesker, who sings the inscription on his mother Leah’s grave in East Ham Jewish cemetery.

Last updated: 6:45am, September 28 2012