Light of Hope Returning, The

Conductor Notes:

The choir and I loved learning this full-length concert work and, after creating the virtual choir version in 2020, rewarded ourselves with live performances in November 2021. As one would expect from Kirchner who is both a singer and pianist, the lines make sense and are enjoyable and invigorating to sing, and the tessituras sit well. Note that this is intended for adults – the subject matter of the whole work with readings is quite dark in places. Some alto lines sit rather low, as well, but there are several movements that would work extremely well for a children’s or youth choir. Elektra loved learning it, and the instrumentalists would play it again in a heartbeat.

If comparing the score to the 2020 video, note that the reprise of “Bright Morning Stars” has been expanded and accompaniment added.

Please ask me if you want the complete texts including publisher and lyricist credits for your concert program. 


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.



Conceived as a full-length concert American folk solstice oratorio without visuals, this work for treble choir in up to six parts was commissioned by WomenSing (Ofer dal Lal, Artistic Director) and premiered in December 2019 in the Bay Area. Elektra performed it live in November 2021 to a wonderful audience response.

The Light of Hope Returning poignantly reflects the current state of global uncertainty, while at the same time ultimately trusting in the cycle of the seasons and the hope embodied by the eventual return of light.

With few concert-length works specifically for women in the choral music repertoire, Dal Lal sought composer Kirchner to create an American folk solstice oratorio. Kirchner’s response was to create The Light of Hope Returning. It includes arrangements of beloved traditional carols along with an equal number of newly written carols, several of which feature texts by Newbery Honoree author Susan Cooper, revered for her poem The Shortest Day, and The Dark is Rising.
In addition to Cooper’s words, other readings and song texts are included by Judith Cordary, Shawn Kirchner, and Julian of Norwich.

The work reflects the rich variety of American musical tradition, featuring folk and gospel styles, Appalachian songs and spirituals, and the colors of fiddle, hammered dulcimer, bluegrass-style piano, and jubilant jazz saxophone. Note that the hammered dulcimer part is optional and, to be able to include all the movements in which Shawn envisions it playing, one needs a chromatic dulcimer, which is a large instrument and quite hard to come by. Shawn owns one and I believe is open to renting it to other players. The instrumental ensemble also includes flute, cello and bass.  The flute and sax parts could be played by one player.

There are a total of 19 movements involving choir, two of which are a cappella. Short instrumental interludes punctuate the work. Solos can be taken by two or more singers. In the 2020 video (see the “Performances” page on this site), Allison Girvan recorded all of them, including multi-tracking the duets. The work ends with #19. #20 is an encore, which includes a 3-note ostinato for the audience.

Individual movements would stand alone well, but the work is conceived as a story arc of 75 minutes plus intermission.

All compositions and arrangements are by Shawn Kirchner. Words and music are by Shawn Kirchner; (c) Shawn Kirchner Publishing except as noted.

Note that Shawn revised the order of the movements in the second half in the fall of 2021. What shows here is what Elektra performed in November 2021, but it does not exactly match the 2020 video.

The artist who created the stunning visual landscape in the 2020 video, Kevork Mourad, lives in New York and has worked with the LA Master Chorale and Yo-Yo Ma. He frequently performs on stage, creating art in response to live classical music.  He is available to collaborate in person with choirs wishing to perform this work in this way, basing the live art on that created in 2020 for Elektra and WomenSing. He can be contacted at

There are several ways in which this work can be performed:
1) concert work with no visuals (2019 premiere)
2) concert work plus the original artwork by Kevork Mourad (2020 virtual choir video.) Elektra subsequently created a “Silent Movie” version in 2021 with Kevork’s blessing, which has some fades to black added between movements that make coordination easier for the conductor.  I also have a marked, full score pdf which our Projection Operator used in 2021 and added markings that were critical to the success of our performances.  A solid, music-reading Projection Operator is essential, and they will need to rehearse with you at least twice. Contact Kevork if you wish to perform the work with the Silent Movie. He owns the rights and will set the rental fee and send you the two video files, one for each half of the concert.
3) concert work plus Kevork Mourad in person painting in real time during the performance.  Ask Ofer dal Lal about the logistics of this (
4) There is now also an SATB version, premiered in December 2021 by the San Antonio Chamber Choir, Rick Bjella, conductor. A children’s choir was incorporated into the work.

List of Movements

Section I – WELCOME
1 – How Have You Come This Night?
2 – The Light of Hope Returning / words by Susan Cooper – used by permission

Reading: Morning by Judith Cordary – used by permission
3 – Bright Morning Stars / Traditional Appalachian / (c) Santa Barbara Music Publishing, Inc. -used by permission – copyright license 2893
4 – Brightest and Best / From “Southern Harmony” / text by Reginald Heber / published by Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishing, courtesy of Concord Music Publishing – used by permission
5 – Remember / Words copyright Susan Cooper – used by permission
6 – Behold That Star / Based on a tune by Thomas Talley

7 – Angels We Have Heard On High / Based on the French carol
Reading: The Shepherd by Susan Cooper – used by permission
8 – Rocking Carol (a cappella) / Traditional Czech
9 – In the Bleak Midwinter / Words by Christina Rossetti
10 – Lo, How a Rose / Based on the German Carol


11 – What Shall Befall You?
12 – Green Grows the Holly / Based on a fragment by Henry VIII
13 – Little Rose
14 – Coventry Carol (instrumental) / Traditional English carol tune
15 – A Coventry Carol (a cappella) / Text by Robert Croo
Reading: Anna by Shawn Kirchner
16 – The Tyrant’s Rage
Reading: from Revelations of a Divine Love by Julian of Norwich
17 – Holy World
Reading: Morning by Judith Cordary (reprise) – used by permission
18 – Bright Morning Stars (reprise)

19 – Fare Ye Well / The Light of Hope Returning (reprise)

20 – Children, Go Where I Send Thee / Traditional spiritual