This winter holiday season, the HPO performs Making Light, a festive composition by HPO Composer-in-Residence Abigail Richardson-Schulte with accompanying text by Canadian playwright, librettist and translator Alexis Diamond.  

The two have shared a long professional career, first meeting in 2003 when they collaborated on an opera. Abigail has a history of bringing stories to life through music, finding huge success in recent years with her composition The Hockey Sweaterbased on the beloved Canadian children’s book by Roch Carrier. This time, Abigail has teamed up with Alexis to create a piece that tells an international holiday story, transporting listeners back in time and around the world to bring a variety of festive traditions to the stage. 

Through Making Light, Abigail addresses a void in the winter holiday repertoire typically performed by North American orchestras by creating something representative of cultures outside of Christian and western traditions. The piece tells a heartwarming story in which a power outage strikes during a holiday party and a dialogue between grandfather and granddaughter ensues, bringing us on a journey through the various holiday traditions and histories that predate electricity and our modern era. The pair conclude that across the world, we are united during the festive season by one symbol: light, both literal and symbolic. Across the globe, the festive winter season is a time to light up the atmosphere not only with colourful lights and candles, but also with family, love and the exulting joy found in time spent together. 

In Making Light, the journey begins with Christmas before diving into Jewish tradition by borrowing themes from music heard during Hanukkah. We then move further east to discover music from Iranian and Hindu holiday traditions with Abigail’s interpretations of music from the 12th and 13th centuries. We return to Canada with Abigail’s own imagined music that accompanies the Anishinaabe story of the Northern Lights. Abigail describes the piece as, “partially borrowed, partially an arrangement, partially mine and then sometimes actually just trying to reconstruct something from the past.”  

Making Light will premiere in Ontario at the HPO’s Hometown Holidays concert on December 18th, 2021, with narration by Canadian actor R. H. Thomson and Hamilton Children’s Choir member Mara Sweeney. The HPO is excited to bring so many talents and traditions together to the stage and light up this season in a new way!