Forward Into Light



Program Note:

Clip info: 
Forward Into Light
August 4, 2023
Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
Cristian Macelaru, conductor
Cabrillo Festival Orchestra

Program Note: 
Forward Into Light
 is a meditation on perseverance, bravery, and alliance. The piece was inspired by the American women suffragists -- Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, Zitkála-Šá, and Mabel Lee Ping-Hua, to name but a few – who devoted their lives to the belief that women were human beings and therefore entitled to equal rights and protections under the law of the United States of America.

I wrote the music thinking about what it means to believe in something so deeply that one is willing to endure harassment, isolation, assault, incarceration, force-feedings, and life endangerment to fight for it. Forward Into Light does not attempt to tell the story of the American women’s suffrage movement, but rather to distill the emotional and psychological contours of faith, doubt, and what it means to persevere.

Forward Into Light features a musical quote from “March of the Women,” composed in 1910 by British composer and suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth. The anthem of the women’s suffrage movement, “March of the Women” was sung in homes and halls, on streets and farms, and on the steps of the United States Capitol. 

The title of the piece derives from a suffrage slogan made famous by the banner that suffragist Inez Milholland carried while riding a whitehorse to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association parade on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C.:

“Forward, out of error

Leave behind the night

Forward through the darkness

Forward into light!”

September 5, 2023

NJ Arts

"New works of classical music come and go. But Sarah Kirkland Snider’s “Forward into Light” is here to stay, a timeless and deeply felt anthem inspired by American women suffragists. The Princeton-based composer — who has a unique, personal style — is reshaping the literature of American music with transformative works that seamlessly combine emotionally impactful storytelling with well-knit, contrapuntal textures. “Forward Into Light” opens with three motivic ideas narrated through violins, harp and violas, and builds to a collaborative orchestral voice of melodic, layered textures. The storytelling is vivid, immersive and direct, and arranged through a wide-angled musical lens. Snider’s craftsmanship is developed with stylistic assurance and musical intelligence.”

Courtney Smith
August 6, 2023

San Francisco Chronicle

"['Forward Into Light' is a] tenderly rapturous tone poem."

Joshua Kosman
August 6, 2023

San Francisco Classical Voice

"Sarah Kirkland Snider’s 'Forward Into Light' (2020)...began with the faintest of flute flurries giving way to lyrical modules making their glittery points in a tonal language. Though this is not a minimalist work, the winds and brass frequently simulate digital delay effects, with notes and phrases echoing away into silence."

Richard S. Ginell
June 12, 2022

The New York Times

“A gem…With music that was by turns fragile and ferocious — and that also boasted touches of mordant wit — “Light” ably communicated its story about new ideas struggling for space…[conductor Jaap van Zweden] relished hairpin turns during which the music throttled into tutti writing, [managing] Snider’s quick dynamic shifts with a Hollywood sound-mixer’s feel for drama… Sometimes Snider’s Sturm und Drang suggested early feminist boldness, or corresponding public sphere controversy… But even in the densest moments, you could discern Snider’s feel for wry commentary... And so, just as in her ecologically oriented “Mass for the Endangered,” the composer’s intellectual concerns dovetailed smoothly with the lush, inviting score…the audience greeted the new piece with enthusiasm….a reminder enough of Snider’s emergent career.”

Seth Colter Walls
June 12, 2022

"['Forward Into Light'] possessed a sheer musical attractiveness which, from the start, was entrancing. The motives were rarely played alone. Instead, they rose up out of each other, each ascending theme and each undulating under-theme pressing each other forward, sometimes forming new constructions, but always going back to the original phrases. Not once did Ms. Snider’s music lag or show academic development per se. Rather the instruments goaded each other onward, forward to a series of crescendos into an emotional climax. If pictures were the might conceive it as waves engendering waves, or creation begetting creations, or even a Darwinesque image of evolution."

Harry Rolnick
June 12, 2022

"At first audition, ['Forward Into Light'] seemed a series of intersections between various sonic waves, several of them harp induced, at times more forcefully coloured, otherwise nuances just gently suggested. The idiom in this piece for a large orchestra was definitely “modern,” but far from being aggressively so, proving the composer’s gift for meaningful orchestration."

Edward Sava-Segal
June 12, 2022

"At the start of ['Forward Into Light'], soft rising violin figures and a canon initiated by lower strings combine with the glistening harp, setting the table for development throughout the fourteen-minute piece. Jaap van Zweden ably steered the Philharmonic through fascinating twists and turns, quirky rhythms and dynamic contrasts. The colorful orchestration includes regal touches from the trumpets, a brief but lovely clarinet tune, sonorous cello melodies and a wide range of sounds from percussion. The most unifying element was Nancy Allen’s outstanding playing as her harp returned time after time to lead, connect and punctuate the music. Toward the end, the oboes offer a quote from Dame Ethel Smyth’s March of the Women...[and the] original ideas return, bringing the work full-circle."

David M. Rice
June 11, 2022

Film Festival Traveler

"The program began promisingly with the remarkable, marvelously performed world premiere of a new commission, the beautifully orchestrated 'Forward Into Light' by the American composer Sarah Kirkland Snider."

Jack Angstreich