Thompson’s ‘No Alleluias’ inspires original choral composition for Scotland festival

It started as a very personal piece of pain and loss.

It’s now a requiem for the world during a global pandemic.

The Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson’s experience with COVID-19 in March of 2020 prompted a theological reflection she entitled “No Alleluias.” Her words, written at Easter last year, described the heart-rending loss of her father and her still-continuing struggle with the virus.

When the United Church of Christ associate general minister posted it to her blog, she had no idea that her essay about conquering death and despair would be transformed into the closing musical piece for the Just Festival 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“I am deeply moved and honored that ‘No Alleluias’ caught the attention of the conference director,” said Thompson, who serves as executive for Wider Church Ministries and Operations.

Thompson spoke at the festival last year, held virtually because of the pandemic, sharing the experiences she and her family had with the virus – three siblings ill, the death of their father, and ongoing health challenges.

This year she will also speak virtually at the 2021 festival, just before the musical debut of her reflection. She plans to talk about the need for grieving in community.

“The requiem is a piece of music about remembrance,” Thompson said. She described “No Alleluias: A Requiem for 2020″ as “a way of remembering and honoring the lives those who died from COVID-19 since 2020.”

“This is a communal moment where there are so many grieving,” she said. “We have to find ways to grieve in absence of being able to gather and must support each other. The church and communities of faith will need to find ways to deal with this extensive and sustained grief from this global pandemic.”

The website for the month-long social justice and human rights festival bills “No Alleluias: A Requiem for 2020” as “a musical journey from despair to hope.” The original choral work will premiere at the close of the event on Saturday, Aug. 28. It debuts at 2 p.m. EDT, 7 p.m. in Scotland (on British Summer Time).

The requiem, commissioned by Just Festival, was composed by Anthony Hammond with lyrics by Robert Rae. Hammond will conduct the piece during the online live-streamed performance from St. John’s Church. Debra Salem is the Just Festival chorus leader.

“This new choral commission pays respect to the extraordinary experience we have had during the pandemic and features the beautiful voices of the City Centre Churches Together Choir and joined by our online Just Festival Chorus,” the website says.

Thompson said the virtual choir will be made up of health care workers in Scotland, who will perform with the live choir.

Those interested in accessing the online event can register here.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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