A virtual concert this summer is looking to help area residents grieve losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Memory: Grief, Remembrance, Comfort, Hope,” by the Winchester Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, aims to help those who have lost loved ones over the last year in addition to other personal losses such as jobs or health.

Listeners can enjoy music, photos, poetry and other readings produced by area professionals stretching from Shenandoah County to Loudoun County.

The event is free and available until Sept. 6 at winchesterago.com, said Linda Beville, dean of the local chapter.

There will be an opportunity to donate to WAGO’s scholarship fund, she said.

“Grief is not just about the loss of a human being, it’s the loss of opportunities, it’s the fear of the unknown, the changing of routines,” Beville said she learned from watching pastor Ed Young on TV.

The pandemic has “really been a huge, huge impact on everybody,” Beville said.

The idea for the memorial concert came when the group realized that putting on their usual spring concert wouldn’t be feasible this year.

Following a successful virtual Christmas concert by 15 members and 15 area churches that attracted more than 500 viewers over about six weeks, the chapter had been planning a birthday concert this spring but decided that with so much sadness and fear during the pandemic, a memorial concert would be more appropriate.

WAGO’s usual Progressive Dinner and Recital program benefits the chapter’s scholarship fund and had intended to celebrate musical composers of note, Beville explained.

But with the pandemic affecting the entire world’s health and most opportunities to socialize and attend live concerts gone, she said they had to suspend any public performances.

“It was not OK to have a birthday party,” Beville said.

“It was desired to have a title that was ‘In Memory’ … and divide it into four segments,” she said.

Those segments — about 15 minutes each — represent four stages of loss: grief, remembrance, comfort and hope.

The program was started by Marilyn Shenenberger and Steven Cooksey, both members of WAGO’s program committee, and they formed a program theme of healing and hope.

Production leaders are Shenenberger as artistic director and Jim Moon as technical director.

Also collaborating on the project are members of WAGO, the Blue Ridge Singers directed by Jeffrey Alban, the Grace Evangelical Lutheran Hand Bell Choir directed by John Romano, various photographers including WAGO members and guest artists.

The concert also plays tribute to local poet Caroline Boen Devlin, who died in December after a battle with cancer.

Though putting on a virtual concert can reach many more people than WAGO’s past concerts would, Beville said the project has taken thousands of hours since January when considering the time required to rehearse and record music as well as weave in all the artwork and spoken parts.

From when the program started on Jan. 16, it involved four months of preparation, Shenenberger said, including the selecting of repertoire, poems, performers, readers and 300 pictures to mesh with the music and the poems.

Shenenberger said 90 people participated in the performances on the four videos and that photos from more than 180 are included.

“What you do for the good of your community and the good of each other … is given for free,” Beville said.

“It’s really gotten to the heart of a lot of people.”

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