2015 A Little Light Music

Songs of Electromagnetic Radiation


Directed by Laura Backley

This collection of entertaining and enlightening songs about the science of light by nine contemporary composers, including David Haines, Michael Ching, Andrea Gaudette, Ruth Hertzman-Miller, Daniel KallmanDan Kohane, Bruce Lazarus, Tim Maurice, and Lauren Mayer, was performed by the NCFO Science Festival Chorus as part of the ninth annual Cambridge Science Festival, April 18-26, 2015.

The Science Festival Chorus comprised more than 40 adults and children (ages 5 and up) from Cambridge and surrounding communities, and four exchange vocalists from the South Devon Singers in Devon, England.  The three free performances during the week of the Cambridge Science Festival included:

A complete set of lyrics from A Little Light Music is available here

Below are demos and performance audio and video (well, more of a slide show, really) of the music from A Little Light Music, as well as information about the composers and lyricists who wrote it.

Michael Ching Michael Ching is a composer and conductor, who is best known nationally
for his innovative operas. His most recent opera is Speed Dating Tonight!
His a cappella opera adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s
Dream (2011) has just been released on Albany Records. He is music director
of Nickel City Opera in Buffalo, NY. Michael lives in Iowa and would enjoy
hearing from you about his pieces at MrBillow@juno.com.
James Patrick Kelly

James Patrick Kelly is an American author, primarily known for
his science fiction. He has received Hugo Awards for his novelettes “Think Like
a Dinosaur” (1995) and “1016 to 1” (1999); and the 2006 Nebula Award for his
novella, Burn. He is currently on the faculty for the Stonecoast MFA
Program in Creative Writing at the University of Southern Maine.

Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox’s new book of poems, Days of Shame and Failure, will
be published by Bloof Books in 2015. Her poems have appeared four times
in the Best American Poetry series (1997, 2003, 2006, and 2011) as well
as in such publications as The New York Times and The New Yorker. She
currently teaches at Iowa State University.

A Little Light Music features one song by Michael Ching and James Patrick Kelly:

A Little Light Music features one song by Michael Ching and Jennifer L. Knox:

Andrea Gaudette

Andrea Gaudette has been playing music professionally since age 14 when
her first job carried the title "substitute organist" for her parish church.
During high school, she spent two summers studying theory and composition
at Tanglewood. In 1990, she received her Bachelor's Degree in Music with
Academic Honors in Composition from New England Conservatory of Music.
She has been teaching piano, theory, composition, voice, choir, instrumental
ensembles and creative arts to children in a variety of settings since 1988.
She currently teaches music in the Cambridge Public Schools, including the
Martin Luther King, Jr. School and the Cambridgeport School. Ms. Gaudette
lives in Cambridge with her husband and 17-year-old daughter. All three
have been active in NCFO since 2006.

A Little Light Music features one song by Andrea Gaudette:

  • Invisible Colors (world premiere) – We can see the colors of the visible spectrum, but not shorter wavelengths (such as ultraviolet) or longer wavelengths (such as infrared).
    [performance audio/performance video/demo]
David Haines Trained at Bristol University, London's Guildhall School, and Banff School
of Fine Arts, David Haines has written fifteen music theater works,
including The Puzzle Jigs, which was performed by NCFO in 2003 and
2008. He has worked with many thousands of schoolchildren and has a
special interest in using song to enhance the science curriculum. The
NCFO Science Festival Chorus performed David's science oratorios
Lifetime: Songs of Life and Evolution in 2007 and Powers of Ten in 2008.
The latter was the official opening event of the first USA Science and 
Engineering Festival in Washington DC. David was the Cambridge Science 
Festival's Songwriter-in-Residence 2011-2014. He lives and teaches in
Teignmouth, Devon in southwestern England.

Rachael Shearmur

Rachael Shearmur was a member of the choir which premiered David
Haines’s Lifetime in the UK in 2004. She studied Law at the other Cambridge
and never really ex- pected one day to be writing song lyrics. She and
David share a passion for sea swimming, and it was the bioluminescence
which they saw in the nighttime waters around David’s home town of
Teignmouth which inspired her to write a poem touching on the science
behind the phenomenon. David asked if he could set it to music, and they
have since then collaborated on a number of songs.


A Little Light Music features three songs by David Haines, plus a collection of songs written by David in collaboration with young children during his songwriting workshops in the Cambridge Public Schools:

  • Cosmic Microwave Background (world premiere) – The night sky is full of microwave radiation left over from the Big Bang. The tiny irregularities in this radiation are indicative of the density contrast in the early universe, which ultimately led to the structure of today’s universe, from galaxy clusters to vegetable soup!
    [Broad performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Living Light – Fireflies are not the only bioluminescent life forms. An estimated 90% of deep sea life emits light. David Haines enjoys nighttime swimming in the English Channel, surrounded by bioluminescent algae.
    [Broad performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Straight Lines – The fastest thing in the universe, light always travels in a straight line. Even when apparently bent by large gravitational fields, such as those surrounding a black hole, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity shows that gravity actually curves space, not the path of the light.
    [Broad performance audio/Peabody performance audio/performance video/demo]
  • Songs written with young school children, 2014 (World première) – A medley of six songs from David's workshops in the Cambridge Public Schools, including:
    • Lettuce in the Closet – plants need water and light to survive
    • Photosynthesong – 6 CO2 + 6 H2O + sunlight = C6H12O6 (sugar) + 6 O2
    • Shadows – our atmosphere scatters light, making our shadows less dark
    • Lights at Night – moon, stars, and fireflies!

    • Phases of the Moon – new, crescent, quarter, gibbous, full, and back again
    • Lights through the Day – our miraculous eyesight guides our day
      [Broad performance audio/performance video/demo]

A Little Light Music features two songs by David Haines and Rachael Shearmur:

 Ruth Hertzman-Miller

Ruth Hertzman-Miller is a Boston-area
physician and musician who has studied
composition with John Stewart at Harvard,
John Morrison at Longy, and Stephen Savage
at New England Conservatory. She performs
regularly with NCFO and was last seen as
Agnes in the 2015 production of Kids Court.

 Meg Muckenhoupt

Meg Muckenhoupt is an environmental and
travel writer. She is widely published, but she
feels her finest work was “Horton Sees a Pluto,”
which appeared in the Annals of Improbable
Research. Remember, a planet’s a planet no
matter how small. She is delighted to hear her
lyrics debut in this year’s Cambridge Science


A Little Light Music features one song by Ruth Hertzman-Miller and Meg Muckenhoupt:

  • The Ballad of Michelson and Morley (world premiere) – The story of the most momentous failed experiment in the history of physics, in which the existence of an “ether” through which light traveled was proven false, paving the way for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Sometimes failed experiments are more important than successful ones!
    [Broad performance audio/Peabody performance audio/performance video/demo]

Daniel Kallman Daniel Kallman's compositions for orchestra, winds, and choir
are widely published and performed across North America,
Europe and East Asia. His steady stream of commissions includes
music for worship, theater, dance, and the young musician.
Kallman has composed for the National Symphony Orchestra,
the Air Force Academy Band, the Hong Kong Children's Choir,
the Minnesota Orchestra, A Prairie Home Companion,
and a wide variety of vocal and instrumental ensembles.
The principal publishers of Kallman’s music are Morning Star
Music (church choir), Hal Leonard (choral), Shawnee/Mark
Foster Press (children’s choir), Boosey and Hawkes (winds and
choral), and Lauren Keiser Music (orchestral). All of Kallman’s
works are catalogued on his website.
Christine Kallman Christine Kallman is a playwright, lyricist, poet and musician.
Her work has been supported and produced by arts
organizations, theaters, schools, colleges and churches. She has
taught music and theater to young people in the classroom,
theater camp, and private studio. Among her works are full-
length plays, one-acts, and musicals, including Donata’s Gift, a
holiday musical based on the Italian legend of Old Befana. Her
most recent play, A Falling Out, is set at the time of the Cuban
Missile Crisis and was presented last spring in a staged reading
supported by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council through a
McKnight Artists Grant. In addition to writing song lyrics, Kallman
has received several commissions to write hymn texts.

A Little Light Music features two songs by Daniel and Christine Kallman:

  • Sky Dance (world premiere) – Auroras are caused when some charged particles of the solar wind escape the magnetosphere and enter the atmosphere, exciting the electrons of the oxygen and nitrogen molecules. As these electrons return to their normal state, they release light in the beautiful colors of the aurorae.
    [Broad performance audio/Peabody performance audio/performance video/demo]


Dan Kohane Composer and conductor Dan Kohane (b. 1989)
is currently pursuing an M.A. in composition at
the Eastman School of Music, studying with Carlos
Sanchez-Gutierrez. His music ranges from serious
concert pieces, to liturgical music for the
synagogue, to rock and popular songs, to
not-so-serious concert pieces. Influences include
Stravinsky, classic rock, klezmer, opera, folk,
funk, Brahms, and nature. He has a particular
fondness for singing, and has written a number
of pieces for solo voice and choir. Dan’s
last major collaboration with Colin resulted in
Me and the Devil: A Blues Oratorio, which
premiered at Williams College with Dan conducting.
In his free time he enjoys playing guitar, hiking,
and learning to make funny noises.


Colin Killick Colin Killick (b. 1990) is a lyricist and
playwright based in Somerville, MA. His
prior works include two other collaborations
with Dan Kohane, the choral piece Sonnet
(performed by the International Orange Chorale)
and Me and the Devil: A Blues Oratorio,
which reinterprets the legend of Robert
Johnson, as well as the plays Villagers
and Brundibar: Hear My Voice. His major
musical and lyrical influences include
Stephen Sondheim, Bob Dylan, Richard
Thompson, and Donald Hall. He graduated
from Williams College, and enjoys loud
concerts, British comedy, and shouting at
his laptop about politics.


A Little Light Music features one song by Dan Kohane and Colin Killick:

  • Looking at the Past (world premiere) – Light travels unbelievably fast, but the universe is so large that it takes unbelievably long for light to travel between stars and galaxies.
    [Broad performance audio/performance video/demo]
Bruce Lazarus Composer Bruce Lazarus recent compositions include The 
Messier Catalogue of Star Clusters and Nebulae - a forty-five
minute “astronomical adventure” for solo piano - to be released
on CD and digital download (at iTunes and Amazon) by CCR/Naxos
of American Records on May 1; incidental music and songs
for the Marymount Manhattan College production of As You Like It,
and November Sonata for flute and piano. He studied composition
at Juilliard and later earned his PhD in music theory at Rutgers
University. Lazarus is currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor
of Music at Metropolitan College of New York and company pianist
for Dance Theater of Harlem.


A Little Light Music features one song by Bruce Lazarus, which was commissioned by NCFO:

  • ROY G BIV (world premiere) – Isaac Newton divided the visible spectrum into seven colors, identifiable by this acronym. Newton chose the number seven based on a mystical belief that the number of colors should match the number of notes in a musical scale, the number of days in the week, and the number of known objects in the solar system.
    [Broad performance audio/Peabody performance audio/performance video/demo]

 Tim Maurice

Tim Maurice is a classically trained musician working
as an arranger, music director, and pianist. He has
written and recorded music for several independent
film projects, ranging from short films to web series.
Born in Maine, Tim attended Bates College, where he
studied piano, and Berklee College of Music, where he
earned a B.M. in Film Scoring. Tim has done orchestra-
tion and arranging work for NCFO in the past, but this
is his first original composition for the group.


A Little Light Music features one song by Tim Maurice:

Lauren Mayer Lauren Mayer is a California-based, award-winning writer and
entertainer, who has performed hundreds of custom-written
programs. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University,
the founder of Curriculum Rocks (producing award-winning
children's educational music), the writer of several published
musicals, and a five-time recipient of the San Francisco Cabaret
Gold Award. She has recorded two album of comedy songs for Moms,
(Psycho Super Mom, Return of Psycho Super Mom), and recently
released Latkes, Shmatkes, comedy songs for Chanukah. Despite
these awards and accomplishments, Lauren’s mother still doesn't
understand why she didn't go to law school.


A Little Light Music features two songs by Lauren Mayer:

  • What’s in a Shadow? (world premiere) – No program about light would be complete without a song about the absence of light and its three parts: the umbra (where the light source is completely blocked), the penumbra (where the light source is only partially blocked), and the antumbra (where the 
    [Broad performance audio/Peabody performance audio/performance video/demo]