Light of Hope Returning, The

Conductor Notes:

The choir and I loved learning this full-length concert work and, although I have never conducted it in concert, I do know every inch of it due to the intensive rehearsal and audio editing processes for our 2020 video. 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. Some alto lines are probably best suited to adult voices (A Coventry Carol springs to mind), but the rest would suit an accomplished youth choir very well.

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 combines existing art projections with live drawing in concert presentations, and is available to collaborate in person with choirs wishing to perform this work with the art created for Elektra and WomenSing. He can be contacted at


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.

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. 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. The instrumental ensemble also includes flute, cello and bass. In addition to Cooper’s words, other readings and song texts are included by Judith Cordary, Shawn Kirchner, and Julian of Norwich.

There are a total of 18 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, Allison Girvan recorded all of them, including multi-tracking the duets. The work ends with #18. #19 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 70 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.

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

18 – Fare Ye Well / The Light of Hope Returning (reprise)
19 – (encore) Children, Go Where I Send Thee / Traditional spiritual