Into the Light A new composition by Jake Runestad

What does reforming mean in the world today?

That question directed composer Jake Runestad’s recent work, “Into the Light.”

The choral and orchestral piece was commissioned by Valparaiso University to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and the Valparaiso University Chorale’s appearances in Germany to celebrate this momentous occasion.

“Commemorating a historical event with a work of art, especially 500 years later, is no small feat — there are centuries of complexities to unpack and the event itself cannot be summed-up in a 15-minute musical work,” Runestad said.

Rather than creating a historical piece, Runestad said he opted to look at major issues plaguing the world today, such as negative thoughts, racism, xenophobia and violence — all of which he calls manifestations of fear.

The many causes of this fear and the people who have and are addressing them helped guide Runestad in expressing these ideas musically through choral and orchestral means.

"We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it." — Martin Luther

“I scoured through hundreds of writings by individuals who I consider reformers — those who have worked to improve their community, their country and/or the world,” he said.

The stories, struggles and successes of the reformers he researched provided depth to the composition and influenced the music, according to Runestad.

“I feel that the texts I’ve included in the piece, taken from reformers throughout history, give us insight into fear as well as wisdom in how we can move beyond it,” Runestad said.

The work features some reformers who have inspired and advanced Luther’s legacy — Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Helen Keller, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., John the Evangelist, Mechthild von Magdeburg, Peter the Apostle, Rabindranath Tagore — and Martin Luther himself.

Through its five movements, the composition explores three principal motives: thought, fear and dark and love and light.

As evident by the title, light is a central theme of the piece. It opens and concludes the composition with the words of Swami Vivekananda: “Come out into the universe of light. / Everything in the universe is yours, / stretch out your arms and embrace it with love.”

“It is my hope that this new work, “Into the Light,” allows us to be immersed in the wisdom of some of the most important and influential reformers in history, and challenges us to consider how we can move beyond fear and onto a path of love, compassion and kindness,” Runestad said.

“Into the Light” premiered at Valparaiso University’s Homecoming Choral Concert on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. This composition will also be performed by the Chorale during their 500th Anniversary of the Reformation tour in Germany this October.

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