To Be Certain of the Dawn – Stephen Paulus/Michael Dennis Browne

This past week has been incredibly busy, but also incredibly rewarding. I sang in the choir for the Southeast Iowa Symphony’s performance of Stephen Paulus’ and Michael Dennis Browne’s oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn.” The performance included not only the orchestra, but the Iowa Wesleyan College Choir, Indian Hills Community College Choir, Mt. Pleasant Chorale, Bel Canto Chorale, and The Greater Ottumwa Vocal Arts Project Children’s Choir. The experience was something I will never forget, and to have the composer and librettist at the last couple of rehearsals and the Burlington performance was amazing. There is so much to say, but unfortunately words don’t do this magnificent piece of work justice. Here is a link to someone’s youtube page that recorded this performance ( It is amazing. Although I LOVED every single movement of this work, here are some of my favorite movements:

Kingdom of Night
Two Little Girls in the Street
Du sollst deinen Nachsten liben wie dich selbst (You should love your neighbor as yourself)
Interlude: Veil of Tears
Hymn to the Eternal Flame
Voices of Survivors
V’a Havta Le Reacha Kamocha
1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Blessings

I’m sure the videos don’t do this performance justice, but you can at least hear what the music was like. Here are some thoughts from the concert form Dr. Jamie Spillane (guest conductor).

Dear Singers,

Congratulations are due to you in so many ways. We had a two truly wonderful concerts. I have heard from every angle on how impressed people were with To Be Certain of the Dawn. The orchestra members loved it, members of the Jewish community, a couple of non-Jewish, older German people stopped to talk after the concert just weeping. Michael Dennis Browne and Stephen Paulus were so thoroughly pleased with everything they heard and experienced with the concerts, rehearsals and working with you all. I’ll also include a note forwarded from Maestro Bob McConnell below as well. I realize the rehearsals were grueling but the outcome was astounding. Saturday’s performance was wonderful and I think yesterday’s concert maybe even stronger chorally in many ways. I am impressed how all of you rose to the occasion. The riser standing from all of you was incredible! BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!!! Thanks for all the work you do and the music you create!

Here is a statement from an audience member:

WOW!! What a tremendous Concert. We had a very diverse audience with lots of first time concert goers . (people with Cowboy hats, Motorcycle jackets, tatoos and t-shirts along with the suits ) But from where I was sitting a very attentive and appreciative audience. People were genuinely moved I think. An amazing work and everyone involved should be very proud of his or her contribution. A physician here told Paul he didn’t know SEISO was that good and “that we would be seeing more of them”!! A Jewish woman told me she cried all the way thru it and took 5 or 6 programs to send to her relatives across the country. She had worked with Holocaust victims in New York years ago. Congratulations to all involved.


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