After my mother died of cancer, I searched frantically for comfort. During that search, I found myself at church every Thursday night attending Compline, a candlelit ceremony that quietly heralds the end of the gift that has been the day.
Twice a month, a women's vocal ensemble performs there. The members call themselves Lumina Latin for "lights."
Week in and week out, alone and in silence, I've drank in their every silver sound, then walked home in peace.
So I was intrigued when I heard that Lumina is embarking on a special project, a new disc called Light in the Darkness. This recording is being made free to those in hospice care and for hospice patients' friends and families.
After a recent Compline, I spoke to artistic director Linda Kachelmeier to learn more about how the project came to be.
When and why did these four women Kachelmeier, Angela Grundstad, Clara Osowski and Kim Sueoka decide to found Lumina?
"It was fall of 2014," Kachelmeier remembered. "I just had a void in my singing career and thought there was also a void for professional women's small groups in the Twin Cities. We had Cantus and everything, but there wasn't anything women oriented. So I wanted that."
She also wanted to explore an eclectic variety of music, and from a spiritual perspective. So she invited three colleagues to join her.
"I kind of just hand-picked them because of not only their voices, but the people that they are," she said.
Audience response to the new ensemble was encouraging. Fans began asking if they'd recorded a CD. But Kachelmeier was reluctant to take that specific leap of faith.
"I was very hesitant, because I didn't think people bought CDs," she said. "Cars aren't even made with CD players anymore! What I did not want was to have an attic full of CDs and try to sell them. And I was adamant, we were not doing that."
Someone suggested that they explore the possibility of crowdfunding. So they began an Indiegogo campaign, raising well over $8,000.
"We raised the money really easily, as far as fundraisers go," Kachelmeier said. "Because we had this focus of wanting to give the disc away. To have the theme of the disc be kind of healing, music for healing."
Kachelmeier sensed a specific need in the world that their performances could fulfill.
"I know that when I was in Rose Ensemble, people would contact us all the time and say we had this CD on when my mother was dying, and that music had gotten them through a really tough time," she said.
"And so that's like," she paused, choosing her words carefully. "That's the best thing you can do. If you can do that, you've changed something, and for the better."
Light in the Darkness showcases a wide variety of vocal music, almost all of it performed a capella. (Although a harp makes a guest appearance.)
"I didn't want it to be all very calm music, because that may or may not be the right music," she said. "So we have a broad range of everything from Hildegard chant to early American music like 'I'll Fly Away' and 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken,' and some of the things that we've sung here in Compline, like Elizabeth Alexander's 'Calm The Tempests of my Heart.'"
Works by local composers are on the disc, including ones by Abbie Betinis and even Kachelmeier herself.
"We used a lot of local composers like we like to do," she said
Understandably, even with funding, such a huge project was a challenge to pull off. To support it, people can give money or time. Lumina is looking for volunteers to help with mailing discs to people and organizations that need them the most. (If you're interested in donating or volunteering, you can contact Lumina through its website.)
Once church officiants began snuffing out the candles, Kachelmeier and I took the gentle hint and wrapped up our conversation. I felt a great relief knowing that the music and musicians that had comforted me is now comforting others thanks to Light in the Darkness, and I walked home in the darkness feeling light.