Conductor’s Corner – I Can See the Light

By Ryan Phillips

When difficult days lie in front of us, how are we to move forward? What drives us on to see the brighter days ahead? Our world is afflicted with violence, hate, racism, disease, environmental harms, and so much more. After all this, how do we refrain from giving up hope? Every one of us has lived through our worst fears and made it through to see a new future – one that we built for ourselves.

I Can See the Light does not give answers, but encourages us all to move forward in the wake of tragedy. The program is divided into four sections: Tragedy, Joy, Love, and Healing. When we suffer from insurmountable pain, our body tries to rationalize the events and understand their meaning.

Eliza Gilkyson’s “Requiem” was written in the wake of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami – the deadliest tsunami ever recorded. Her plea for meaning, understanding and grace resonate with our experience of the current COVID pandemic that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives from our midst. Craig Hella Johnson arranged Gilkyson’s solo song into a simple, yet immeasurably powerful piece which opens our performance.

Following tragedy, we search for solace and look to the future for hope. Some turn to faith, others to nature, and some to music. “Cantate Domino,” “Ballade to the Moon,” and “When Music Sounds” speak to the joys of life still left to experience. Of course, there is no greater joy than love. The following three pieces offer a journey that experiences true love, marriage, and living out our final days with loved ones.

Finally, we turn to healing, the last step in moving past tragedy. Our performance culminates in the singing of a choral arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning.” This piece accepts the past and moves forward to find a brand-new day dawning. After we find joy and love, we heal and say, “I Can See the Light.”