…a plague o’ your houses was written during 2021 as a satirical response to the extraordinary life-changing global Covid-19 pandemic. The lyrics are by the renowned Hungarian poet George Szirtes (b.1948). The four short ‘Covid’ poems are part of a daily poetry journal often written last thing at night. Their themes are taken partly from the televised press conferences, partly from reports, partly from local conditions and partly dream imagery. They all take the same form of three haiku plus a five-syllable line. This small selection is concerned with the uncertain state of knowledge, information and publicity during the lockdowns. They appear in an anthology Fresh out of the Sky (Bloodaxe October 2021). In this work these ten-line poems are sung by an SSAATTBB choir.

Szirtes’ Five Baroque Plague Sonnets for His Highness (published in a Penguin/Random House anthology called Singing in the Dark) are an attempt to put our own plague into perspective by conjuring five major historical precedents: Smallpox, Black Death, Cholera, Spanish Flu and Covid. In each sonnet a voice is introducing the situation to a potentate, addressed as ‘Your Highness’. Inevitably, the first four plague references build the way to the plague of our time, and a narrator is used for these sonnets, each time introduced by a mark tree (chimes).

The two sets of verse are juxtaposed with an accompaniment of strings, piano, timpani, and percussion