Aspects of Light is a set of two pieces composed in celebration of the new Martin Pasi pipe organ installed at St. George’s Episcopal Church, Arlington, Virginia in 2021. Premiered by Kola Owolabi at the dedicatory concert on February 11, 2022, the piece takes its inspiration from the Rose Window and Transfiguration Window at St. George’s, both of which were restored at the same time as the organ installation. Ben Keseley, Minister of Music, states that “the parish loves the windows and the way the light dances in the space.”
The first movement, entitled Lux solis (Light of the sun), explores the concept of sunlight and its effect when shining through the windows. Just as light coming through stained glass produces a kaleidoscope of color, bouncing and reflecting in many directions, the piece opens with the organist’s fingers dancing through a kaleidoscope of the tone colors the organ has to offer. The next section begins with warm 8’ foundation stops, representing the warmth of sunlight as it fills a room – slowly at first, and then growing in intensity to display the majesty of the full brightness of midday sun. In this middle section, triplet figurations introduce the plainchant melody Conditor alme siderum, chosen in reference to the text “O gracious Light,” derived from the 3rd century Greek Phos hilaron, which was traditionally sung in the evening as lamps were being lighted. After the chant grows to its fullest point with triumphant chords, the music then fades just as the evening sun wanes, but not before gifting us with the exquisite beauty of sunset, portrayed by a few more glimpses of tone colors, such as the lush 8’ string stops, a solo flute, and the zimbelstern.
O gracious Light, Lord Jesus Christ, in you the Father’s glory shone.
Immortal, holy, blest is he, and blest are you, his holy Son.
Now sunset comes, but light shines forth, the lamps are lit to pierce the night.
Praise Father, Son, and Spirit: God who dwells in the eternal light.
Worthy are you of endless praise, O Son of God, Life-giving Lord;
Wherefore you are through all the earth and in the highest heaven adored.
(The Hymnal 1982, #26)
The second movement, entitled Lumen Christi (Light of Christ), addresses the idea of light as manifested through the glory of Christ, who is the Eternal Light (the circular/sunburst shape of the Rose Window signifying eternity), and particularly as he was transfigured on the mountain and shone with radiance before three of his disciples, as depicted in the Transfiguration Window. Scriptures are filled with references to Christ as the light, and the book of Revelation tells us that in heaven, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.” (Revelation 21:23)
Based on the chant Visionem quam vidistis for the Feast of Transfiguration, the piece begins with loud, crashing chords played by the full organ – a harmonization of the chant melody – and immediately floods us with blazing, brilliant light. A fugue follows, with its subject also derived from the chant melody, beginning at a mezzo-forte and growing in intensity to a toccata-like climax, leading into a final triumphant declaration of the chant, once again with full organ.