Songs of Light, December 2012
This concert started in the dark, with a single, slowly repeated concert chime. One tenor, candle in hand, entered from the back, singing the Gregorian chant. He slowly walked up and down each isle, encircling the audience. (Singers are dressed in black, women with cranberry silk scarves. Pieces are woven together, non-stop to avoid sing-clap-sing-clap, keeping the mood intact. Applause happens spontaneously at predictable moments and I use this in concert planning as places for mood shifts.)
The rest of the singers entered from the back with candles and formed a half-circle in back. From this position:
Christe qui lux
O nata lux, Lauridsen
During O Nata Lux, a 9-year old girl dressed in white with white flowers in her hair, walked around the room in slow motion, lighting all of the standing candles and votives.
Chimes sound during physical movement (with opening pitch of the next piece) and singers move front:
Midnight Clear…… during this piece stars appear in the darkness on the ceiling (and they all shimmered! Rented a star machine from a lighting and design place in Sac)
Star of Wonder/We 3 Kings
O lux Beata (applause)
Lux Aeterna -Singers move to back again with the repeated concert chime (with pitch of next piece). The piece begins from the back and dancers in flowing white, one with a wreath of candles on her head, move forward in and around the audience – during this the story of St. Lucia is told from the back on mic (yes, over the top of the song).
Lux Aurumque – during this the dancers dance, starting in a position bowed forward, arms over each others heads.. resembling a closed flower. During the opening chords of the Whitacre, they raised and closed, as if the flower was opening and closing, or breathing… dance continues throughout the piece (applause).
Winter Solstice begins from the back, singers sing as they move forward …. 12 manzanita trees covered in little white lights come on, one at a time….
Before Al HaNisim, the Menorahs are lit…. audience members who celebrate Hanukkah came forward (invited in pre-concert audience warm-up and rehearsal) and participated in the lighting and the singing of the traditional blessings.
(applause after last of Hebrew songs)
As the last set of pieces begin (celebrative mood), the Christmas tree is lit (to the ceiling, covered in white lights), stars remain on the ceiling, manzanita trees stay on, candles are still lit…. lots of light.
Audience sings as directed in the program, O holy night
Singers surround the audience, all sing Silent Night during Peace Peace (encore).
All sing Auld Lang Syne as singers greet audience.
I ask singers and instrumentalists to greet 5 people that they have not before met and ask them “What was your experience tonight?” or thank them for their help creating the experience. Rather than collect compliments, I ask singers to focus on the audience member: focus on their experience, their ideas, what worked for them, what would they do differently etc…
Side note: It was a surprise to see how many people with Jewish heritage came forward to participate in the lighting of the menorahs. They all sang the traditional blessings in Hebrew and instinctively took turns lighting the candles. The choir turned and quietly watched their tradition, then followed with 3 Hanukkah pieces. I cannot count how many people, Jewish and non-Jewish, thanked me for either including their tradition, or introducing them to a new experience to which they would not have otherwise been privy. A reviewer commented on it in the newspaper the following day.