This oratorio was Tippett's artistic and emotional response to the events that led to the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 1938. Tippett used as his formal and historical models the Bach Passions and Handel's Messiah. Tippett's use of the spiritual serves as equivalent for the Lutheran chorale of Bach's time. By 1941, when Tippett had completed the composition of his oratorio, the practicalities of staging a performance during wartime were difficult to say the least. However, through the direct agency of his lifelong friends and professional colleagues, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, the work was performed in 1944, with Pears himself as tenor soloist.