In honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band premieres an original piece of music composed by Assistant Director Maj. Ryan J. Nowlin. In a special video production, the composition’s first performance was captured under the glowing stained glass of the Washington National Cathedral, while being played by the Marine Chamber Orchestra accompanied by a Joint Armed Forces Chorus.
The piece, “These Lights, Which Shine,” draws inspiration from a Yiddish poem by Hannah Senesh, titled Yeish Kochavin or “There are Stars.” Upon reading the brief poem, Senesh’s words instantly resonated with Nowlin. The words draw upon the imagery of light from stars in the night sky as a metaphor for how the memories those we have lost live on well after they are gone. Nowlin’s piece expands upon this idea in musical form, touching lightly on the loss suffered on September 11th, but largely building up to a realization that those we have lost never truly leave us.
There are stars whose light reaches the earth
only after they themselves are no more.
There are people whose radiant memory shines in the world
even after they themselves have left it.
These lights – which shine in the darkest night –
These, these illumine the path for us all.
Translation by Bruce L. Ruben