THE LIGHT of
a folk oratorio for winter solstice of traditional carols and new winter carols
featuring texts by
SUSAN COOPER & JUDITH CORDARY
dedicated to Steve Kinzie
MARLENE FORTE, READER
THE HIGH NOTES
THE PASADENA CHORALE
THE PASADENA CHORALE BAND
JEFFREY BERNSTEIN, CONDUCTOR
THE LIGHT IN ME, THE LIGHT IN YOU
THE LIGHT OF HOPE RETURNING, Part I
1. How Have You Come This Night?
Brittney Wheeler, soloist
2. The Light of Hope Returning
Mandi White & Lindsay Kearney, soloists
II. THE MORNING STAR
3. Bright Morning Stars
Lindsay Kearney, soloist
4. Brightest and Best
Brittney Wheeler & Megan Schultze, soloists
6. Behold That Star
III. AT THE BIRTH
7. Angels We Have Heard on High
Cristina Hernandez, soloist
8. Rocking Carol
Israel Segura, soloist
9. In The Bleak Midwinter
10. Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming
Erika Boychenko, soloist
THE HOLLY AND THE IVY
THE LIGHT OF HOPE RETURNING, Part II
IV. A SIGN OPPOSED
11. What Shall Befall You
12. Green Grows the Holly
13. Little Rose
14. Coventry Carol Instrumental
15. Coventry Carol
16. The Tyrant’s Rage
17. Holy World
Brittney Wheeler & Belinda Lau, soloists
18. Bright Morning Stars (reprise)
19. Fare Ye Well, Come What May
Cristina Hernandez soloist
20. Children, Go Where I Send Thee
THE HIGH NOTES
Zoe Rae Flemington
Genesis Medina Cruz
Sophia Arpi Rickard
Eliana Saenz de Maturana
The High Notes are made possible by the generous support of the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts and the Pasadena Community Foundation.
Catherine Baker, flute; Patrick Posey, saxophone;
Scott Higgins, dulcimer
Ji Young An, violin; Garik Terzian, cello; Stephen Pfeiffer, bass
Tali Tadmor, piano
Noah Gladstone, contractor
Instrumentalists appear through arrangement with the
American Federation of Musicians, Local 47.
The appearance of the Band was generously
underwritten by the following sponsors:
Northlight Music Inc.
SPECIAL GUEST READER
MARLENE FORTE is a Cuban American actor and a founding member of LAByrinth Theater Company in NYC where she started her career. Today, Forte makes her home and living in Los Angeles, and has been working on television and film for over 25 years with over 110 TV and film credits. Most recently seen on Netflix’s Lincoln Lawyer, ABC’s The Rookie, and Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on Amazon Prime. Some of her stage credits include; Mrs. Brady in Inherit The Wind at Pasadena Playhouse; Sarita in Members Only at LATC; Jocasta in Oedipus El Ray at Boston Court, and Armida in Mojada: A Media In Los Angeles at the Getty.
The Pasadena Chorale is supported by grants from the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture.
THE PASADENA CHORALE
Jean Pallares Leonard
For complete text for THE LIGHT OF HOPE RETURNING, click here.
PROGRAM NOTES for THE LIGHT OF HOPE RETURNING
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
As in these words of Emily Dickinson, hope is often associated with lightness – the lightness of a hollow-boned bird, able to rise above the realities of earth, and to fly into an imagined future. Or the lightness of bird’s call, faint but sure, as night gives way to the dawn.
But the hope we sing of in The Light of Hope Returning is not a hope of airy lightness; it has the light and heat and cheer of a crackling, blazing fire in a communal hearth. It has the powerful, heart-lifting light of a distant star that is actually, up close, an unimaginable furnace of fire. It is allied with the basic driving force in the universe that turns the galaxies, forms the planets, and spurs the countless generations as Life finds an ever-forward way. This hope is our Life-force, the fire that burns at our core, our DNA-level birthright, the momentum of God within us: our unstoppable will to survive, thrive, and create.
The Light of Hope Returning could be described as a Solstice “Lessons and Carols” or a Christmas “folk oratorio.” But in a broader way, it is simply part of a centuries-old midwinter tradition of festive concerts, pageants, parties, services, and caroling that we somehow need to mark our year, raise our spirits, renew our bonds, and re-center our priorities. What sets The Light of Hope Returning apart, perhaps, is the intentionality with which it invites us to place our own personal “temporal” journeys into the larger “eternal” cycles marked by our midwinter festivals: the cycle of seasons (Solstice), the cycle of the year (New Year’s), and the cycle of birth and renewal (Christmas).
Thematically, the Light of Hope also explores the eternal “oppositions” that – whether we like it or not – coexist in an essential dynamic without which the “wheels of the world” would not turn: light and dark, life and death, heat and cold, old and new. One aspect of this oppositional dynamic comes to life in the work’s two central, contrasting archetypes: the destructive Tyrant King, an embodiment of cruel-hearted Winter, and the welcoming Wise Woman, in tune with the “eternal” rhythms of the world, who knows full well that light will come again out of darkness, and life from death, and spring from winter.
Constructed in the form of a cathartic ritual in five parts, The Light of Hope Returning invites us to witness the rebirth of light at the hour of greatest darkness, and to find our hope again. First we are welcomed unconditionally to “sit awhile” and given a place near the blazing fire. Then, in section 2, carols of The Morning Star raise an image of hope, but a hope that is as yet out of reach – or perhaps forgotten, faint as a memory, and far away as a distant star. But the star draws near, and in section 3, carols of the Birth invite us to join the shepherds’ journey to greet the newborn Child.
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words And never stops – at all –
After intermission, in section 4, The Sign Opposed, we feel the force of “opposition” to this new life and light, as the powers of winter and darkness wax to the full. The archetypal Tyrant King responds with wrath to the threat posed by Child – the sign of the New Order – and all must flee to escape harm. But at the hour of greatest darkness, the light returns. At the hour of great destruction, a deeper hope is found. Life absorbs the greatest blow...and goes on. Cathartic journey complete, we come to section 5, the Parting, where we are sent on our way with power and purpose into the New Year, and with the invitation to meet again at the next “turning of the year.”
The Light of Hope Returning is modeled after Folkjul: A Swedish Folk Christmas, in which traditional Scandinavian carols for choir and folk soloists are inventively combined with folk fiddling and brilliant organ improvisations by Gunnar Idenstam. Our project aims to reflect the American folk heritage, and as such brings together strands of Appalachian and Shape Note traditions with Gospel and Spiritual traditions, along with faint echoes of the folk roots of the British Isles.
The fiddle and string bass get toes tapping on “Brightest and Best” and bluegrass banjo-like rhythms sparkle on “Angels We Have Heard on High.” Gospel-style piano undergirds “Behold That Star,” and “Holy World,” and saxophone solos soar above gospel grooves in “Lo, how a Rose” and “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Folk-style fiddling is heard on the violin and cello as a “midwinter motif” leads us through the work’s many transitions. And the hammered dulcimer lends its unique ring and shimmer at special moments.
Settings of traditional carols and songs appear alongside an equal number of original carols and songs. One “hybrid” addition is a new modal melody for the beloved Christmas text “In the bleak midwinter.” Another unusual element is a song for an archetypal “Tyrant King” actually sourced by a tyrant king; King Henry VIII’s own carol “Green Grow’th the Holly” is the basis for the new, rousing winter carol that opens the concert’s second half.
The writer Susan Cooper, vibrantly creative at age eighty-four, has become a sort of “matriarch” for The Light of Hope Returning project, providing it with an anchoring inspiration. She is uniquely qualified to supply Solstice texts; her acclaimed young adult series The Dark is Rising tells the story of eleven-year-old Will Stanton, who on his December 21st birthday “awakens” to find himself at the center of the great, age-old struggle of Light and Dark. Cooper was also a long-time collaborator with the late John Langstaff, whose Christmas Revels have become an enduring American tradition of Winter Solstice festivities.
Cooper’s lyric “The Light of Hope Returning” has a special role in the work, opening and closing it with a strong dose of cheer, and aptly capturing the work’s essence. Its refrain reads:
For here is the bright fire burning, And here is the old year turning,
So shall we stay to greet the day, And the light of hope returning.
Her lyric “Remember” is a touching, nostalgic reflection on an earlier time of simple joy – a joy that has perhaps been lost, but may yet be found again: “Tell me, do you remember? It was many years ago, but you still may hear the singing if you try.” But it is Cooper’s third text contribution that marks a decisive turn down a deeper path, and distinguishes The Light of Hope as a Solstice work – broaching the subject of life’s greatest challenges and darkest moments. In the “The Shepherd” she weaves a realistic thread of the tragic loss of a lamb into the timeless tale of the Nativity, told in the shepherd’s own words.
Symmetrically balancing “The Shepherd” in the concert’s second half is a newly-written dramatic reading for another character from the Nativity narrative: Anna the Prophetess (In a lovely coincidence, the Biblical account includes Anna’s age, the same as Cooper’s this year: eighty-four.) Anna recounts the story of her long life, crowned by her greeting of the Holy Child, and her warning to flee the backlash of the Tyrant’s threat. In an archetypal way, perhaps Anna is the figure of Hope itself – that part of us that never leaves “the Temple,” that never gives up. Or as in Dickinson’s words, the part of us that “sings the tune without the words / and never stops at all – ”. This steadfastness is equally echoed in words at the work’s climax by the English anchoress, Julian of Norwich, and in the words from the American poet Judith Cordary that bring the work full circle, in a perfect Solstice phrase:
Each day now,
the world darkening toward zero,
I rise more early,
just to know that first uncertain blue. Moving toward night,
I grow more morning.
THE PASADENA CHORALE
FOUNDING ARTISTIC & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
MARKETING & DEVELOPMENT
Annie Ranzani Makarchuk