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University Singers virtual performance of Toby Young's 'We Measure Time In Breath'

3 June 2020

In a time when meeting in person and singing together is impossible, Bristol University Singers have created a virtual performance of Toby Young’s ‘We measure time in breath’, one of a set of madrigals in his larger work 'Under the Surface'. Commissioned by the Life of Breath project (led by the Universities of Bristol and Durham) the text is inspired by the real-life lived experience of those suffering breathlessness and other thoracic conditions, and who are now amongst the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis. It has particular significance for the choir as it formed part of the programme of their last concert before lockdown began.
The text, by poet Jennifer Thorp, explores the passing of time measured by each breath we take. We measure time in breath, we count its run Through gain and loss of air. The tide is out, The season shifts, the newest year is come: A throat can tell the gap from flood to drought. Love, if you stutter, where is time in you? Have you grown faster, bought your seconds dear? And if breath’s held or stopped or slender few, Can I give mine to keep your counting clear?
With thanks to Toby Young, Jennifer Thorp and the Life of Breath project.
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