Your Views: ‘Sure on this Shining Night’

Your Views: ‘Sure on this Shining Night’
During the pandemic, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra musicians have been performing chamber music pieces in small ensembles in courtyards and gardens. (Courtesy photo)

To the editor:

As citizens of Alexandria and our country, we wake up this November to a stark reality. With a tense election season barely behind us, with COVID-19 cases surging forward claiming the lives of thousands upon thousands of Americans, we live divided. Not only are we divided personally and geographically – unable to easily trust in each other’s presence – but we also cannot begin to understand the mindset of those who differ from us.

The question for the Alexandria Symphony, and for me as its music director, has been whether and how music can contribute at this fraught moment to finding a more accepting and empathetic, less partisan, common ground. What can bring us together, even if apart? How completely apart are we? At our core, I believe all souls yearn for connection and respond intuitively to the odd healing power of music. Notes are cloaked in harmony, like snow on trees or mantelpieces around fireplaces.

In collaboration with the Alexandria Choral Society, the ASO has created a virtual winter concert called “Sure on this Shining Night,” which we have envisioned as a musical message of hope for our community. Central to this concert is Morten Lauridsen’s choral setting of James Agee’s poem of that title.

Our hope is that Agee’s themes of kindness and star-made shadows will bring light to those who are feeling the darkness around them acutely. May music and the arts be a source of solace and reflection for us all at a level that transcends the planes of politics and thought.

Though I may “weep for wonder wand’ring far alone,” I’m also sure that kindness is watching for me and all of us these shining nights and will be our best guide forward.

Sure on this Shining night
Of Star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the North All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far
Of Shadows on the Stars

For more information about ASO’s “‘Sure on This Shining Night:’ A Musical Message of Hope,” please visit

– James Ross, music director, ASO