In September 2000 Serbia faced elections that many felt would be rigged and almost certainly cement the dictator Slobodan Milosevic in power, permitting him to continue his destruction of Serbia. Driving back from the closing ceremony of the annual Mokranjac Festival of Spiritual Music on the eve of the elections I engaged in a long conversation with Pavle “Paja” Aksentijevic, the famous cantor, in which we reminisced about the success of Bob Geldorf’s Live Aid and its ability to bring together prominent people from all walks of life to sing for a good cause. I had a similar idea in 1996 of creating a Serbian version whereby a hundred public figures from all walks of life would sing — in spite of their fear and the complete and utter national paralysis and despair — against the dictator and the evil regime. Unfortunately, this idea never came to fruition.
We contemplated and discussed the new wave of ordeals that awaited Serbia. At this point a new idea entered my mind, and this was to create a guerrilla variant of a rebel anthem, that Paja, being a poster boy for Serbian spirituality and signifying the resilience of the Serbian spirit, would sing standing on the hood of a car on the eve of the final battle. Later that night we met with the renowned actor Branislav Lecic, a friend and a fellow fighter for freedom, and plotted the perfect plan: Find a fantastic libretto, most probably a Psalm that would suit the purpose, I would then write the music, Leka would read it in Serbian in front of the crowds, Paja would sing it in Church Slavonic and then…… then we would all run as fast as we could! We were absolutely positive that the regime would not hesitate to use the cruelest and deadliest force and we were ready to face it.
In the morning I went to the Patriarchy and acquired a Serbian Orthodox Psaltery printed in the 18th century. As I opened the book, out fell a piece of blotting paper with a beech leaf pressed upon it and a barely visible sentence written on the reverse: “I thank the science that delivered me from evil” along with the number 140. I immediately looked up the Psalm with this number, and was stunned by the discovery. The title read: “A Prayer of delivery from our evil enemies” – “Deliver me, oh Lord, from the evil men, keep me from the vicious ones, from those that think evil in their hearts and wage war every single day…” The lines grew stronger, exulting painfully in the last verse: “Lord, O Lord, my sweet Rescuer, shelter my head on this day of War!”
…It gave me goose bumps all over….
But then, we were fooled by what we now call “The 5th of October”, and the long awaited revolution and final catharsis of a tormented, strayed and disfigured nation was simply omitted, and so was the “street premiere” of this Warrior’s Prayer. Later on it was performed in the Oxford Sheldonian, commemorating the victims of World War I, underlining again a notorious fact that Evil is a universal and timeless phenomenon. That’s how a “prayer” became a “wake”.
lyrics: Liturgical (Church-Slavonic)
arr: voice & male choir
alt. arr: saxophone & strings
dur: cir. 5,5 min.