17 June 2024

Composer hopes new work will inspire Christian pacifism

Alan Griffiths’ new work was inspired by and advocates for Christian pacifism. Picture: Elspeth Kernebone

Maya Pilbrow

8 November 2023

A new operatic song-cycle that aims to inspire people to stand up against warmongering will premiere at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Christian pacifist composer Alan Griffiths’ new song-cycle is titled Such A Fine, Sunny Day. It is the composer’s first work exploring themes of nonviolent resistance to war. The premiere will feature performances from acclaimed chamber musicians from Australia and around the world.

Mr Griffiths said he wanted people to come away from the concert filled with hope for the future amidst a conflict-laden present.

Such A Fine, Sunny Day was inspired by young Christian anti-Hitler pacifists in Nazi Germany. It was composed during Melbourne’s second lockdown.

Stuck inside and isolated with little to do but read the news, Mr Griffiths began to fear the potential of a war with Russia. These fears were only compounded after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Mr Griffiths wanted to speak out against the possibility of the conflict in Ukraine escalating, but he wasn’t sure how.

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He thought about a German Christian pacifist organisation called the White Rose.

The White Rose was a group of professors and university students from Munich who opposed Hitler during World War II. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, they wrote and distributed pamphlets urging rebellion and non-violent resistance. The group referred to themselves as Germany’s bad conscience, ready to remind their fellow citizens of the crimes of the Nazi regime.

One of the members was a student named Sophie Scholl. She was arrested and executed at age 21 after being caught distributing anti-war pamphlets. Her final words are disputed. According to Holocaust scholarship organisation the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, one of the final things she said before she died was “Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go”.

Mr Griffiths said he was deeply moved by Ms Scholl’s actions. He considered his own worries about escalating global conflicts, and wondered what Ms Scholl would have done in a democracy where she had the freedom to speak out openly against warmongering.

Mr Griffiths said he wanted his song-cycle to take people through Ms Scholl’s emotional journey.

Mr Griffiths wrote the libretto to capture the inner monologue of Ms Scholl awaiting her fate. He also included the perspectives of witnesses to her bravery. He included excerpts from the letters she was caught distributing.

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Mr Griffiths said he hoped those who heard his music would see the humanity in the work and be inspired to speak out for peace.

He said his pacifism was tied to his faith. He said it made sense for Christians to be peace advocates on a global stage.

“As a Christian, I think the greatest thing we can do for our fellow human beings is to try to get them to go out and have a relationship with [God]. But how can we do that when they’re being butchered?” he said. “We need peaceful solutions to conflict.”

Mr Griffiths said it was important his song-cycle would premiere at St Paul’s Cathedral. He hoped it would be the right place for his message to resonate with Christians.

“If we’re going to spread the message of Christ’s love and peace, we can’t do it with a gun,” he said.

Such A Fine, Sunny Day will premiere on 25 November at 7.30pm at St Paul’s Cathedral.

For more information, see here.

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