Sunday November 4th was a chilly Portland day. I spent the morning looking at washers and dryers in a large showroom pondering the variety of options and wishing the salespeople were more knowledgeable. Very dreary.
Luckily, my afternoon was a pure delight! I joined a room full of people at the Clinton Street Theater to watch two films about Alzheimer’s that were both educational and heart-warming. First up was “The Story of Shadow and Light: Giving Voice to an Alzheimer’s Journey”. This documentary followed Joan Szymko (Aurora’s Artistic Director) in her process of learning about Alzheimer’s in order to create a musical piece of work that would portray the human experience of Alzheimer’s.
Joan collaborated with Diane Retallack, conductor of the Eugene Concert Choir, on the piece which later became “Shadow and Light”. Together they met with a variety of people impacted by the disease. In the documentary we saw Joan and Diane talking with individuals experiencing Alzheimer and their care partners as well as Alzheimer’s professionals to understand the emotional and practical realities of the way the disease affects a variety of people. What a treat to see these two creative women learning and working together (sometimes in Joan’s Portland garden) to produce this work.
Following the documentary and a short popcorn break we watched a screening of the film that was made when “Shadow and Light” premiered in Eugene’s Beall Concert Hall in April of 2016. The music, both for choir and orchestra told the story about people going through the process of first being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, then living with it and finally dying. The music and lyrics set the tone for each phase and the production was professional and inspiring.
The afternoon closed with a short question and answer session featuring both Joan and Diane as well as Stephanie Foster from the local Alzheimer’s Association. CDs of the documentary and the premiere were on sale with profits going to the Eugene Concert Choir. Aurora Chorus singer, Lani Jo Leigh, owner and operator of the Clinton Street Theater donated the use of the space for the event.
When I left the theater I felt a sense of community with other theater goers, Aurora singers and all people who know that storytelling through music has the power to make the world a better place. The documentary can be viewed on youtube at aofilms.com/films/shadow-and-light. Copies of the DVD and CDs of the performance are available for purchase through eugeneconcertchoir.org.
~Aurora Board Chair Lynn Greenwood