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Illuminare: Darkness to Light -
Program Notes

“Illuminare: Darkness to Light” on February 24th, at 4:00 PM 

Greenwich High School Performing Arts Center. 


Educating our audience and singers is part of the mission of the Greenwich Choral Society. We welcome you to explore the music and the people who composed it for our February concert. Biographies and most program notes were written by the composers. Additional notes are provided by the conductor. 


Susan Brumfield is Professor of Music Education at Texas Tech University and holds a Ph. D. in Music Education from the University of Oklahoma. She is known throughout the United States and Europe as a clinician, consultant, author, composer, arranger, and choral conductor. She is in frequent demand as a commissioned composer, clinician, and guest conductor.


No Time combines two camp meeting songs in an expertly crafted arrangement. Originally written for SSAA in 1999, the arrangement became so popular Brumfield later arranged it for SATB and TTBB. This piece has been a perennial favorite since I first programmed it in 2015. - CH











Elizabeth Alexander (b. 1962) grew up in the Carolinas and Appalachian Ohio. Her love of music, language and challenging questions is reflected in her catalog of over 150 compositions in a wide variety of classical and vernacular styles. Her commissions have included music for orchestras, chamber ensembles, solo voices, and especially her choral pieces, which have been performed by thousands of choruses worldwide. Reviewers have described her music as “brilliantly innovative” (New York Concert Review), “truly inspired” (Boston Intelligencer) and “stunning…exquisite…sculpting light into sound” (Kansas City Metropolis). She studied composition with Jack Gallagher at The College of Wooster, and with Steven Stucky, Yehudi Wyner and Karel Husa at Cornell University, from which she received her doctorate in Music Composition. She has received grants, awards and fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, Jerome Foundation, New Music USA, Minnesota State Arts Board, New York Council on the Arts, Wisconsin Arts Board, National Orchestral Association, International League of Women Composers and American Composers Forum. Elizabeth lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she practices yoga, makes pretty good biscuits, and looks for all kinds of excuses to visit her two grown sons. 


Sing Me Awake

The author of more than ten collections of poetry and several volumes of essays, criticism, and memoir, Gregory Orr is a master of the short, personal lyric. His poetry has been widely anthologized and translated into at least 10 languages. When Orr was 12, his brother was tragically killed in a hunting accident, an event his family was never able to talk about. His mother died soon thereafter, and Orr found in poetry the transformative power of language. His near-death experience as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, in which he was jailed and severely beaten, contributes to the urgency with which his poems seek transformation. In an NPR story on his craft, Orr states, “I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions, and traumatic events that come with being alive.” Orr has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He has also been a Fulbright Scholar and a Rockefeller Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Culture and Violence, and he received the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. City of Salt (1995) was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award for Poetry. He teaches at the University of Virginia, where he founded the MFA program in writing in 1975, and served from 1978 to 2003 as poetry editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review. 


Be grateful my soul. On March 28, 1941, Norbert Čapek, minister of the Unitarian Church in Prague, was arrested by the Gestapo, along with his daughter Zora. They were accused of listening to foreign broadcasts and BBC transmissions; Norbert was also accused of “high treason,” with several of his sermons cited as evidence. Zora was sent to a forced labor camp, from which she was subsequently released. At Norbert’s trial he was found innocent of the treason charge, but the Gestapo ignored the court’s recommendation, sending him first to Dachau and later to Hartheim Castle in Alkoven, Austria, where he was executed in a gas chamber. Zora’s final visit to her father was on March 31, 1942, the day before Norbert’s trial. During that visit he gave her a letter containing a poem he wrote for her. The prayerful stanzas from the core of the poem were adapted to create the lyric of Be Grateful, My Soul.

Elizabeth Alexander writes: “Be Grateful, My Soul is a meditation on the timeless ecstasy of life, despite its disappointments, cruelty and pain. The arching melody, layered upon itself again and again, creates a form that is organic and expansive, suggesting breath upon deep breath, a joy of spirit which transcends all time and circumstance.”  Program notes and biography from


Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978 and moved to the United States in 2001 to begin his composition studies at the Juilliard School in New York City. He currently lives in Laguna Beach, California. Ola’s choral albums include “Ola Gjeilo”, “Winter Songs” & “Dreamweaver”, featuring Tenebrae, Voces8 and the Choir of Royal Holloway, as well as the solo piano albums “Night” & “Dawn.” His global streams have now surpassed 230 million.


Ola Gjeilo's spectacular "Ave Generosa" was commissioned by Keith and Sue Ferguson for the ensemble Kantorei in honor of their 20th season. The text is by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), one of the first identifiable composers of Western music. Originally written for SATB choir, the composer created this arrangement for treble choruses. 


Srul Irving Glick (1934-2002) is one of Canada's most prominent and prolific composers having written in most major forms including chamber, oratorio, orchestral, vocal and choral.

Born in 1934, Glick grew up in Toronto where, from an early age, he was immersed in music and surrounded by musicians in his family. Glick received his Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in composition and theory at the University of Toronto. He continued his studies in Aspen and then in Paris with such masters as Darius Milhaud, Louis Saguer and Max Deutsch. Glick was also choir director and Composer in Residence with Beth Tikvah Synagogue in Toronto between 1969 and 2002. It was there that he composed the majority of his liturgical music. In addition, Glick served as program director of Jewish Music Toronto for four years and the program director of Musica Beth Tikvah. He taught music theory and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music and York University.

Glick published Psalm Trilogy in 1999 near the end of his tenure at Beth Tikvah Synagogue. He compiled a libretto based on the psalms of David (Psalm 92, Psalm 47, and Psalm 23). Today’s performance includes the middle movement, Psalm 47. Set in Hebrew and using mixed meter, there is a hint of instability in the rhythm but the energetic expression of joy prevails. 















Elaine Hagenberg

llluminare is Elaine Hagenberg’s first extended work, consisting of five movements for SATB chorus and chamber orchestra. She writes: “Using lesser-known sacred Latin texts, the piece takes us through a season of beauty and goodness that has been disrupted by darkness and confusion. But as Light gradually returns, hope is restored, illuminating our future and guiding us in peace.” This performance will include both GCS and the Vassar College Treble Choir. 


Elaine Hagenberg’s music “soars with eloquence and ingenuity” (ACDA Choral Journal). Her award-winning compositions are performed worldwide and frequently featured at American Choral Directors Association conferences, All-State festivals, Carnegie Hall, and other distinguished international concert halls from Australia to South America and throughout Europe. With over fifty commissioned works, she has composed new music for the American Choral Directors Association, professional choirs, colleges and universities, community choirs, high schools, and churches. “I Am the Wind” was named the winner of the 2020 ACDA Brock Competition for Professional Composers.

Elaine has music in print with various publishers including Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer, Hinshaw Music, and Beckenhorst Press. Currently, she publishes her concert music independently through Elaine Hagenberg Music which is distributed through GIA.


Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). But wait! I thought this was a program of contemporary music? Yes, you are correct that this was the intention. However, Mendelssohn’s iconic, brief “Lift thine Eyes” from Elijah is a staple among treble choruses. Expertly written, the three-part piece felt like the perfect response to Alexander’s Sing Me Awake. Mendelssohn is one of the most famous composers from the Romantic period having composed over 750 compositions. In addition to his incredible output, he is responsible for the revival of the music of J.S. Bach. You can be sure he will be included in many programs going forward. 


Alice Parker (1925-2023) studied organ and composition at Smith College and received her master's in choral conducting from Juilliard, where she studied with Robert Shaw. She collaborated with Shaw and his Chorale for 20 years, creating a large number of choral arrangements. Former GCS conductor Richard Vogt and members of GCS knew Alice. 

GCS Tenor Jon Hunt writes: "Beginning in the 1960s, Alice came up to Stamford every Christmas, and a group of about thirty of us would gather at a local church and sing Christmas Carols for two hours! I had the pleasure of working with Alice on a couple of arrangements she did for us on the 1985 GCS tour of England. She was warm, funny, and a delight to be around. And quite a mover and shaker in women's music!" 


Our program includes "Sometimes I Feel" for choir and contralto soloist, arranged by Alice and Robert Shaw, and "Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal," one of Parker's most performed works. 

"If we're arguing with our rational minds, we're talking about which divides us…If we are singing with our intuitive minds, we are concentrating on what unites us. Our common human experience and all life experiences can be sung about." - Alice Parker


For more information on Alice Parker, visit






Jake Runestad: Secret of the Sea


Dubbed a “choral rockstar” by American Public Media, Jake Runestad is one of the most frequently performed composers of concert music. His thoughtful and compelling works “that speak to some of the most pressing and moving issues of our time” (Star Tribune), have been heard in thousands of performances across the globe. Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. Find out more at:


Craig Hella Johnson and KI Concerts commissioned The Secret of the Sea (2018), for choir, piano, percussion, and string quintet, which had its premiere at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. The subject of the piece was inspired by this venue’s proximity to the sea, and to compose it, Runestad searched for texts related to the sea in his own poetry collection and beyond. The resulting libretto incorporates texts by Walt Whitman, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), and the Inuit shaman Uvavnuk, and takes listeners on a dramatic musical journey. “This journey of the human spirit,” the composer writes, “questions the meaning of existence while evoking the sights and sounds of the sea.”

Part I, “The Unbounded Sea,” pairs texts by Whitman and Longfellow: Whitman’s words express the unbridled joy of embarking on an ocean voyage, while Longfellow introduces the central image and title of the work: “My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea.” In Part II, “Crash On Crash,” H.D.’s agitated language launches us into a “raging” and “furious” sea that Runestad matches with equally stormy music. Finally, Part III, “The Light that Fills the World,” presents a cultural story that expresses Inuit peoples’ intimate relationship to the sea. One evening, upon leaving her home, the Iglulik shaman Uvavnuk witnessed light come down from the sky. It entered into her and, inspired, she began to sing a song about the sea, of which the text that concludes The Secret of the Sea is a rough translation. Runestad’s music is harmonically centered around the Lydian mode—- hum the Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Si-Do scale starting on Fa—as well as the whole tone scale, whose expansive intervals evoke the majesty of the sea, and may bring to mind Claude Debussy’s La Mer. - Program note by by Leah G. Weinberg, Ph.D. (I’m not sure how to get the high resolution version…)


Secret of the Sea

Considered “one of the best of the younger American composers” (Chicago Tribune), EMMY®-winning and GRAMMY®-nominated composer and conductor Jake Runestad has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles and organizations such as Washington National Opera, the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, the Pacific Symphony & Chorale, True Concord Voices & Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Seraphic Fire, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, and many more. “The Hope of Loving,” the first album dedicated to Jake’s choral music, recorded by professional American choir Conspirare, received a GRAMMY® nomination. In 2019, Jake became one of the youngest composers ever awarded the prestigious Raymond C. Brock commission by the American Choral Directors Association. “Earth Symphony,” Jake’s ground-breaking choral symphony written with librettist Todd Boss, earned a 2022 EMMY® Award for musical composition. Jake’s visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and conducting engagements, enabling him to share his passion for creativity, expressivity, and community with musicians around the world.

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