Lux Aeterna: A Celebration of Light
In the spring of 2017, Dr. Bonnie Robinson authored a grant to the Byrne Foundation. Her request? Funds to support a collaborative performance between regional high school students and the Dartmouth Handel Society.
Dr. Robinson is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment at Lebanon High School, and a longtime member of the Handel Society. When I asked her what motivated her to write the grant, she spoke of the transformative power of the arts – that they inspire, challenge, elevate and unify – and how our contemporary moment demands the presence of such forces. The piece she chose, Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, is testament to this commitment, enshrining in its bars a deep and lyrical explication of perhaps the most primal force for good: light.
“It hasn’t been the easiest time recently,” Dr. Robinson tells me. “Looking to the arts and looking to light was a pathway that felt fitting.”
The grant was funded, setting into motion preparations for the concert in November that Dr. Robinson worked closely with Dr. Robert Duff, Artistic Director of the Handel Society, to achieve. But the performance was not the only item on the agenda. In addition to joining the Handel Society in song, the grant allowed students a master class in vocal technique with Dartmouth lecturer Erma Mellinger, a special guest rehearsal with Dr. Duff, and an opportunity – for many, their first – to sing with an orchestra.
“The results exceeded my expectations,” says Dr. Robinson. “Both the students and the adult singers were so appreciative of the opportunity, and looked at the work differently because of the experience of doing it together.”
When I caught up with the choristers from Lebanon High School a few months after the concert, the energy and enthusiasm with which they recounted the event reflected Dr. Robinson’s feelings. For them – Aubrey E., Will, John, Fiona, Ella, Hannah, Anna, Logan, Keenan, Sabrina, Noel, Sophia, and Emma, just to name a few – being exposed to a level of passion and mastery was inspiring and challenging; collaborating, interspersed among the adults, was illuminating and encouraging; and singing with the unified sound of many voices and instruments under one roof was uplifting and empowering. This, I saw, was a moment in their lives they wouldn’t soon forget.Though the event required the coordinated efforts of many incredible people, none of it would have happened without Dr. Robison. Her love of the arts and commitment to sharing them is a light all its own.