Commemorating our long COVID-19 journey

Claremont Presbyterian Church choir soprano Susan Cave sings a solo during Offertory on Sunday during the church’s Pandemic Requiem concert. The concert was conducted by special guest, Ruth Charloff, left. COURIER photo/Andrew Alonzo

by Andrew Alonzo |

On Sunday, approximately 100 spectators packed the Claremont Presbyterian Church to hear music by the church’s esteemed choir along with stories of how the pandemic impacted our lives.

The concert, which was also streamed online, was the premiere of Gerard “Geri” DeMasi’s latest composition, the Pandemic Requiem. DeMasi is the Director of Music and organist for the Presbyterian Church.

“In the Presbyterian Church we have a number of different commissions that support the main governing body, which is the session that also involves the pastors,” DeMasi explained on how the concert began. “And we had a number of conversations about how we might do something to help the church out and the community process what we’ve been going through during the past couple of years.”

Last year, after many ideas floated, all seemed to settle on creating a requiem surrounding the pandemic. One of the church’s members, Charles Kerchner, who also spoke during Sunday’s Requiem, was actually the one who planted the seed for the concert according to DeMasi.

“He’s kind of our church historian in addition to serving many other roles in the church,” DeMasi said. “And he figured out somehow that for all the history of requiems throughout time that nobody has ever done a requiem specifically to address a pandemic.”

While it started out as a grand idea, which included hiring a well-known composer, DeMasi said the session decided to scale it back and make it more of a homegrown project. A project that DeMasi decided to undertake. Working eight hours every day researching and composing, it took him about three months to complete.

Sunday’s concert opened up with a warm welcome from church pastor Karen Sapio and officially began with Councilmember Jennifer Stark reading a news article about the first coronavirus death in Los Angeles County, dated March 2020.

The church’s choir then began singing Introit and Kyrie.

The requiem was a blend of Latin versed opera music interspersed with personal and media accounts of how the pandemic affected Claremonters. DeMasi noted that pastor Sapio handled the personal account and stories portion of the requiem while he took care of the music.

Even DeMasi and his wife Karen went up to the podium to describe how the pandemic put a pin in their wedding plans.

“You still owe me a honeymoon,” Karen concluded the story.

Find the requiem on YouTube at and on Facebook at

The Claremont Presbyterian Church is located at 1111 N. Mountain Ave. For more information about the Claremont Presbyterian Church, contact (909) 624-9693.


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