The shooting of a Nazi by the teenaged Henschel Grynszpan was used as justification for Kristallnacht (1938), the commencement of the Third Reich’s wholesale slaughter of European Jews. It also planted the seed which would flower approximately half a decade later when Sir Michael Tippett’s unique and affecting secular oratorio A Child of Our Time received it premiere in London in 1944. Like his inspiration Grynspan, the composer was an outsider and one who could at least point to change. Not only was Tippett a gaoled objector to the war, he was an open homosexual living in precarious times. Although much of his eventful political life as a socialist was hidden during his lifetime, with the oratorio, he moved to a more personal and Jungian form of politics whilst asking if it was possible for an individual to bring about change.

A Child of Our Time at the Adelaide Festival A Child of Our Timeat the Adelaide Festival. Photo © Tim Standing

Although he had originally planned on having TS Eliot as librettist after the great success...