Greta Thunberg’s Climate Lectures Become Fodder for Choral Composition

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg, of Sweden, addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
AP Photo/Jason DeCrow

Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg gained fame lecturing adults about the threat climate change poses to her generation’s survival, and now her angry rants have been transformed into a choral arrangement by a British composer.

The article on the Classic FM website cites Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations last year, where she chided adults — “How dare you! You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words” — as now being part of a larger cantata entitled “Gentle Flame.” The piece is billed as paying tribute to people who “take a stand.”

The “setting” featuring Thunberg was written by Liz Johnson, who claims to be a fan of the 17-year-old.

“I decided to go through all of her speeches and find fragments of her words that work as a call-to-action,” Johnson told Classic FM. “Talk and hope isn’t enough, you have to actually do something in order to affect change.”

Classic FM reported that the music was featured at a commemoration of the liberation of East Berlin:

Working with a student choir and a soprano soloist, the composer created a contemporary choral work that was performed at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, as part of a concert to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

To create her setting, Johnson used very simple scales, that only move up or down.

“Greta has a very direct way of communicating,” Johnson told Classic FM. “She doesn’t mess around, there’s no frills. Every word counts. And I wanted to find a way to capture that in music.”

The piece starts with Thunberg shrieking, “How Dare You?” and ends with her quote, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”

“Her words are complex and challenging,” Johnson said. “So I wanted to find music that went from that simplicity to something that’s also complex and challenging, that still packs a punch, so the audience understands what’s going on.”

The article reports that Thunberg is being compared in the piece to Kurt Masur, who was director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and took a stand against East Berlin with his work.

Thunberg is expected to do some more lecturing to adults when she and fellow youth activists make an appearance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week.

President Donald Trump is also expected to attend the event.

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