Chineke! Orchestra teams up with Christian Aid to highlight the climate emergency

7 June 2021, 13:17

Chineke! Orchestra teams up with Christian Aid to highlight the climate emergency
Chineke! Orchestra teams up with Christian Aid to highlight the climate emergency. Picture: Ntando Brown

Climate change is having a devastating impact around the world. Chineke! Orchestra and Christian Aid have come together with top composers to highlight its effects with a powerful new orchestral work.

Chineke! Orchestra and UK charity Christian Aid have teamed up to collaborate on a powerful new orchestral work to raise awareness around the climate emergency.

The orchestra and charity called on four composers – Shirley J. Thompson OBE, Roderick Williams OBE, Daniel Kidane and Ayanna Witter-Johnson –  to pen a movement each in the 12-minute work, Song of the Prophets: A Requiem for the Climate.

The piece, which was inspired by a theology paper about climate change released by Christian Aid in 2014, was due to be premiered at St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2020 but the performance was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Now Chineke!, Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra, will perform the work in all its glory at St. Paul’s as originally planned – but streamed online. The orchestra will be joined by three special guest musicians performing on instruments from countries that are among those suffering most in the climate crisis. 

Read more: This one-minute climate change symphony shows the terrifying impact of global warming

Chineke! Orchestra is Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra
Chineke! Orchestra is Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra. Picture: Ntando Brown

The debut performance is now taking place in the run-up to the G7 Summit, as Christian Aid calls for more action on climate justice. 

Over the past few decades, extreme weather has had devastating effects on some of the world’s most poverty-stricken areas, making it harder for thousands of people to recover from failed harvests, destroyed homes and health crises. The orchestra will be joined by three musicians playing instruments from countries that are among those suffering most in the climate crisis.

In the paper that inspired the music, theology advisor at Christian Aid Susan Durber writes: “From the global South, we hear the very clearest insights into the urgent situation facing us all and a challenge to do something before it is too late. We are reminded that we need to press on for climate justice.”

Rapasa Nyatrapasa Otieno will play the nyatiti, an instrument played in Kenya, while Renu Hossain will play instruments native to Bangladesh, and Richard Olatunde Baker will play the talking drum, which is native to west African countries including Nigeria.

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, said: “Christian Aid has been campaigning on the devastating effects of climate change for the world’s poorest people for over a decade. Throughout 2021, our Climate Justice campaign is drawing attention to the urgent action needed on this global crisis.”

Chineke! was set up in 2015 to provide career opportunities to exceptional classical musicians in the Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities in the UK and Europe, and prides itself on celebrating diversity within the genre.

Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, founder of Chineke! and presenter of Chi-chi’s Classical Champions on Classic FM said: “We’re thrilled to be working with Christian Aid on this project. Their vision of dignity, equality and justice for all living in extreme poverty around the world – no matter their faith – is an inspiring one.

“As someone of Nigerian and Irish descent, I recognise the stark inequalities that exist between the richest and poorest globally and want to do my bit to help. We are excited by Christian Aid’s creativity and vision to rally people together to stop the climate crisis.”

Song of the Prophets: A Requiem for the Climate premieres online at 7pm BST on Wednesday 9 June. Click here to sign up for free tickets and find out more.

Chi-chi Nwanoku presents Chi-chi’s Classical Champions 9pm Sundays on Classic FM, from 23 May.