Poem: Always Look on the Bright Side of Górecki

In this week’s Poet’s Corner, Pam Makin reflects on a memorable and moving performance by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

May 10, 2023, updated May 10, 2023

Always Look on the Bright Side of Górecki

It was never going to be a toe-tapper
We knew that going in
Górecki was up front about that
Symphony No. 3 is, as described on the box
A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.
A fitting fundraiser for Afghanistan

Ever the optimist, I suggested we go
An orchestra! In a cathedral!
It will be wonderful, magical… majestic!
A symphony in three movements
Each one a lament, and so,
It was… not a toe-tapper
We knew that going in

A symphony of loss and grief
It begins with a simple melody
Flowing across the strings of the double bass
Picked up by cellos, handed to violas,
Then violins, pitching an arc,
Right to left across the stage

The red-clad soprano raises crystal clear
Orbs of sound from deep within
Lofts them into the cathedral dome
They glow and dance, held by orchestral strings
The sound folds back into the instruments
Flowing back across the arc, returning
To the depths of the double bass

The second movement belongs to the soprano
Fragile in appearance, her strength is in her voice
The despair of loss across centuries
Fills the spaces between held breaths
Raising eyes aloft to the stillness.

Grounded again for the final Lento
The mood remains dignified, sorrowful
A symphony of spiritual calm –
A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs
It was never going to be a toe-tapper
But we knew that going in
There was no melody to whistle on the drive home
But somehow, some way, our spirits were lifted.

Editor’s note: on October 15, 2021, in Adelaide’s St Peter’s Cathedral, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with staff and students of the Elder Conservatorium of Music, soprano Jessica Dean and conductor Anthony Hunt, performed Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’ as part of its A Symphony for Afghanistan program, a fundraiser for the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. More details can be found here.

Pam Makin, originally from Melbourne, lives in South Australia. A marriage celebrant, she also writes poetry and short stories. She was a heat winner and runner-up at Spoken Word SA’s Summer Slam 2019, and is currently compiling a manuscript of poetry, “to get the written as well as the spoken poem out to an audience”. More can be found about Pam at her website here.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to [email protected]. Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.


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