Batavia church presents 'Seven Last Words of the Unarmed' Jan. 19

  • Joel Thompson

    Joel Thompson

  • Eugene Rogers

    Eugene Rogers

  • Shirin Barghi

    Shirin Barghi

Submitted by Congregational Church of Batavia
Posted1/15/2020 12:57 PM

The Congregational Church of Batavia, 21 S. Batavia Ave., will show "Seven Last Words of the Unarmed" on Sunday, Jan. 19, beginning at 10:45 a.m.

"Seven Last Words of the Unarmed" is a multi-movement piece of music exploring the final words of African American men who have died untimely deaths -- in many cases, while interacting with police. You probably know many of their names: Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner.


The University of Michigan Men's Glee Club, under the direction of Dr. Eugene Rogers, associate director of choirs and professor of conducting at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, has been performing the piece along with the Academy Award-winning song "Glory" by Common and John Legend since 1917.

After being troubled by the killings of unarmed black men and finding artist Shirin Barghi's #lastwords project, composer Joel Thompson began his journey in writing "The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed." Using the text structure of the Joseph Haydn's "Seven Last Words of Christ," Thompson chose seven last words from Shirin's artwork that formed the structure of the work.

The last words and/or correspondences of each victim spoke to Thompson deeply, and he chose seven that most easily aligned with the text structure of Hadyn's work. Each victim's last words are set in a different musical style and Thompson incorporates the "L'homme armé" ("The armed man") Renaissance French secular tune throughout the composition. Originally scored for male chorus, string quintet and piano, the work has also been scored for full orchestra.

The documentary highlighting the work and the Glee Club's journey with this powerful piece and Dr. Roger's arrangement of "Glory" titled "Love, Life & Loss" has been aired on Detroit Public Television, and received five Michigan Emmy Awards including best composition and arrangement and best current/public/community affairs documentary.

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The showing is in conjunction with the celebration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King worked for years on race relations, human and civil rights, voting rights, world peace, living wages, financial equity and other social issues of great concern to U.S. citizens.

The congregation invites all in the community to join in viewing this powerful musical rendition. A discussion will follow the viewing.

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