In Lucem

Timothy Blinko (Artist), Archbishop Suheil Dawani (Other), Professor James Ward (Other), Noam Sagiv (Other), Sally Martin-Brown (Other)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

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In Lucem is a synaesthetic choral work written for the Archbishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani and the University of London Church Choir. Its world premiere was in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem; the second performance in the Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem and the London Premiere in Southwark Cathedral (all in 2018). In Lucem is concerned with peace and the longstanding troubles in Jerusalem and US President Trump’s inflammatory decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the time of writing the work.

It sets the Latin form of John 1:5 ‘And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it’ – symbolic of Lent and the broader issues in Jerusalem and the Middle East – the darkness and the light. However, In Lucem is not just a Christian or even religious work as darkness and light are key to human experience, with wide symbolic resonances.

In Lucem makes a critical development of concepts explored in A New Song (2012), written for the choir of Christ Church, Oxford, with its use of synaesthesia as a means of heightening the experience of musical performance (see portfolio information.) In Lucem takes a different approach from A New Song, utilising a Latin text to focus on the sensual nature of the word-sounds themselves to connect with the historical context to the work. It also benefits from collaborative discussions with synaesthesia researcher Professor Jamie Ward (Sussex), who has described this as ‘a unique approach’ and also with Dr Noam Sagiv (Brunel). Specifically, this piece makes a new critical interrogation of several concepts from synaesthesia, by evoking through sound the sensory worlds of darkness and light – key binary oppositions for humans. The unvoiced ‘Ha’ sounds evoke the animal fear of darkness and the Sss (sizzle sounds) convey the qualities of light through sound, while new harmonic constructions express further sensory modalities associated with the text.

In Lucem seeks to make critical enhancements to knowledge and practice by addressing research questions such as: can human sensory experiences of light and darkness be translated to and thereby evoked by novel sonic and harmonic constructions? And: can choral music be conceived which suits a clearly defined liturgical setting, but which also speaks to a universal range of human, multisensory experience?

The critical methodology for In Lucem involved a review of relevant synaesthesia literature; discussion and soundings with synaesthesia experts; a resultant rationale, and reliability and validity testing with singers impacting critically on the final outcome. It is a work which on one plane responds and reacts to the multimillennial political issues of Jerusalem and on another engages critically with the binary extremes of human sensory experience – darkness and light.

Further Information

The Latin text of In Lucem was translated by St Jerome in a cave which forms part of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem. For over 1,000 years, Jerome’s translation of the bible was the definitive version of what was the most influential book in Western Europe. The second performance of In Lucem took place in St Jerome’s Cave, Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem (2018).

In Lucem develops and departs from synaesthetic concepts critically explored in A New Song, written for the choir of Christ Church, Oxford. Specialist and non-specialist members of the audience expressed the sensory impact the music and words had on them and their experience at the reception of the work:

'Thank you for writing such a wonderful piece. It caused a stir for all the right reasons, and will certainly hold a place in our repertoire.’
– Professor Stephen Darlington, Director of Music and Choragus of the University of Oxford

‘It was wonderful and even better on a second hearing. Words as well by Blinko. Definitely the high point of our Nine Lessons and Carols.’
– Canon Professor Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Oxford University

‘I was thrilled by a stunning performance of an astonishing new piece by Timothy Blinko at the Christ Church Carol Service.’
– Revd John Paton, Precentor of Christ Church Cathedral

A New Song can be experienced at:

Reception of In Lucem:

‘In Lucem was written by Timothy Blinko specifically for Jerusalem, for the Archbishop and the people of the Holy Lands. We thank you very, very much for this wonderful work and for your presence here with us this evening.’
– The Very Reverend Hosam Naoum, Dean of St Geroge’s Cathedral, Jerusalem (2018)

Dedicatee, Archbishop of Jerusalem Suheil Dawani (an Arab Christian interviewed by the BBC on Christmas day, 2017 about the troubles in Jerusalem) expressed that he ‘is delighted with the thought at the heart of the composition and is very moved.’ (2018)

Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThe Holy Lands
PublisherWorld premiere in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem; second performance in the Basilica of the Nativity, Bethlehem and London Premiere in Southwark Cathedral (all in 2018)
Media of outputOnline
Sizefollowing performances
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018
EventPublic Performances in St Georges, Cathedral, Jerusalem, on the banks of the River Jordan, and night-time in Bethlehem - Jerusalem and Bethlehem
Duration: 14 Feb 201818 Feb 2018


  • In Lucem choral work


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