Shadow and Light

an Alzheimer's Journey


Libretto conceived and created by Joan Szymko (from various sources)

Shadow and Light is a compassionate exploration of lives of those touched by Alzheimer’s dementia. The libretto is a carefully ordered collection of poems and texts from various sources, including scripture, contemporary poets, the composer’s own writing, and poems by caregivers. Scored for SATB chorus, mezzo-soprano, tenor and soprano soli, and chamber orchestra (2,2,2,2 - 2 hrn, 2 tpt, 2 perc, hrp, pno, strgs). Three major segments provide the structure for a “universal” story of Alzheimer’s. Part I / The Cloud of Forgetting is told from the perspective of a person diagnosed with dementia, and features a mezzo-soprano soloist. Part II / Uncontainable Night focuses on the experience of the loved one/caregiver, (Soprano and Tenor). Part III / I and Thou maintains that the person with dementia has not ‘disappeared.’ They are not ‘the disease’ — but a person still capable of feeling love, beauty, music and remains capable of connection. Throughout, the chorus performs the role of story teller, care partner— witness. “This is truly a masterwork and deserves a place in the standard choral repertory.” — Dr. Diane Retallack, Commissioning Conductor


Item Voicing/Instrumentation Duration Price Audio View Score Quantity
JS-074 Libretto 70:00 N/A
No.1 "I Felt a Cleaving", mezzo-sop, chorus 4:50 N/A
No.2 "Tangled Tango", mezzo-sop,chorus 4:50 N/A
No.3 "Memory Aids", mezz-sop 3:25 N/A
No.4 "This Is What We Fear", chorus 3:30 N/A
No.5 "By Night", soprano N/A
No.6 "Sundowning", ten, sop, chorus 7:45 N/A
No.7 "A Choice", chorus 3:25 N/A
No.8 "Lead Kindly Light", sop, ten, mezzo-sop, chorus 4:30 N/A
No.9 "Take Me Home", SSAA quartet N/A
No.10 "In This Uncontainable Night, chorus 6:15 N/A
No.11 "Regret", tenor, chorus 4:10 N/A
No.12 "Why Am I in this Place", mezzo-sop, chorus 5:50 N/A
No.13 "Remembering" , SA chorus 4:20 N/A
No.14 " Hold Hands", chorus 2:35 N/A
No.15 "I Sing to You", chorus 3:00 N/A
No.16 " Love Bears All Things", chorus, ten,sop,mezzo-sop 5:00 N/A

Audio Credits: 

Eugene Concert Choir and Orchestra, Diane Retallack, director


“Szymko has created a work here that is more than a piece of music… it should be played everywhere."    

— Rachael Carnes, Eugene Weekly

“…a poignant, stirring amalgamation with moments that will tug on the heartstrings of any audience member.”   

— Alison Kaufman, Register-Guard


"This work deserves a place in standard choral repertory.”  

— Dr. Diane Retallack, director, Eugene Concert Choir & Orchestra  

“I didn't know what to expect last week, and now that it's over, 

I can say that it will stay with me as one of the most memorable experiences of my life as a musician. “ 

    — David Straka, first cellist, Eugene Concert Orchestra


The Story of Shadow & Light: Giving Voice to an Alzheimer's Story