Into the Light


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The Story

The Reformation was a pivotal event in the history of Western culture and created waves of change across Europe that spread to the rest of the world — the impact of which is still being felt (and studied) today.

Commemorating an historical event with a work of art, especially 500 years later, is no small feat — there are centuries of complexities to unpack and the event itself cannot be summed-up in a 15-minute musical work. Rather than create a museum piece for the Reformation, I asked myself what reforming means in our world today: What are the major issues plaguing our world and what is their cause? Who has addressed these issues through their work and their words (in the vein of Martin Luther)? How can I address these issues through a musical work for chorus and orchestra in a meaningful way?

To find the right texts, I scoured through hundreds of writings by individuals who I consider reformers — those who have worked to improve their community, their country, and/or the world. Along the way, I also discovered the book “The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear” by Michael Kinnamon. Kinnamon addresses fear and how it has infiltrated our culture and causes many of the issues we face including institutional racism, xenophobia, cultural divisions, and fear of “the other.” Many of the writings that I collected also speak to this negative power of fear and how we must work to move beyond it.

The chorale is a staple of the Lutheran movement and I wanted it to be an important element of this work. I am especially inspired by the writers/reformers whose texts I’ve used — knowing their stories, struggles, and successes provides such depth and greatly influences the music. I encourage you and your students to delve into their lives and work in order to fully grasp the meaning of their words.

It is my hope that this new work, “Into the Light,” allows us to be immersed in the wisdom of some of the most important and influential reformers in history, and challenges us to consider how we can move beyond fear and onto a path of love, compassion, and kindness.

1 Oboe
2 Horns in F

Percussion 1 (small triangle, glockenspiel, finger cymbals,
bell tree, crash cymbals)
Percussion 2 (suspended cymbal)


SATB Choir



Valparaiso University in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (1517-2017). Christopher M. Cock, conductor, Valparaiso University Chorale, and director of the Bach Institute. Funded through the Hoermann-Koch Sacred Music Endowment at Valparaiso University.

September 30, 2017. Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN.



Come out into the universe of light.
Everything in the universe is yours,
stretch out your arms and embrace it with love.
(Swami Vivekananda)

You are a product of your thoughts. What you think, you become.


The only lightless dark is the night of ignorance.
We differ from one another, not in our senses,
but in the use we make of them.
(Helen Keller)


The ice under us is very thin, and is made weak by the warm fogs of fear.
(Frederick Douglass)

We are driven by love or by fear.
I fear you, for I do not know you.
(After Martin Luther King Jr.)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.
(John the Evangelist)


The soul is made of love and must ever return to love.
There is nothing so wise,
nor so beautiful,
nor so strong as love.
(Mechthild von Magdeburg)

Above all, love.
(Peter the Apostle)

I shed my words on the earth
as the tree sheds its leaves.
Let my thoughts unspoken
flower into kindness.
(Rabindranath Tagore, adapt. Runestad)


We are not yet what we shall be,
but we are growing toward it.
(Martin Luther)

Come out into the universe of light.
Everything in the universe is yours,
stretch out your arms and embrace it with love.
(Swami Vivekananda)

5 reviews for Into the Light

  1. Brian Wilson

    Into The Light is moving every time we rehearse it… I can’t wait to perform it! There are some individuals who are just gifted with whatever it takes to match the correct voicing with, the correct instruments, and select meaningful text (in this case, from the Reformers) putting it all together in a way that makes it come out as worship every time. Jake Runestad is one of those people. I’ve never met the the man, but know that he is one of those people who is intentionally sensitive to God’s Spirit and somehow can translate it into a score of music.

    I’m just a retired old guy, but I wouldn’t miss singing this for anything! It’s just too good… every time – even during rehearsals. Life is just too short not to have a few experiences like singing Into The Light. Thank you for listening and obeying, leaving ‘Into The Light’ for the rest of us to share in being able to give God is due glory.

  2. Mari Hahn

    I was in the audience at the Valparaiso University Chapel for the world premiere of this piece. I cried through the whole thing. And I was on the Alumni Association trip as the Chorale traveled around Germany and performed it “in the footsteps of Martin Luther” in the fall of 2017. I am absolutely moved to tears by every moment of it every single time I hear it. The text is so simple and so powerful! Jake Runestad has done something incredible. This piece was commissioned for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. It would have been easy to compose something that reworks some themes of Martin Luther’s hymns or use 500 year-old text. And that would be fine. But this! This changes everything. Into the Light launches us into the next 500 years and challenges us to rethink everything. Our world needs this. I need this. Thank you Jake Runestad for composing it. Thank you, VU Chorale for singing it so beautifully. No piece has ever affected me the way this piece has.

  3. Matthew Bremer

    Where to even begin. I was a member of the Valparaiso University Chorale when this song was world premiered. I have never been more honored than in the fact that Jake has given us a song that is so beautiful and so powerful and that has a message that the whole world could really use to hear. The text, the idea, the expressive emotion, all these things are so perfectly constructed in this piece. It’s not always easy to hear that change is necessary, especially when we are what needs changing. There are so many parts of the text that speaks to me and the kind of person that I want to be.

    “You are a product of your thoughts. What you think you become.” – Reforming the way we think about the world, about others, about ourselves, that has such a powerful impact on everything around us.

    “There is nothing so wise nor so beautiful, nor so strong as love.” – It’s a cliche, but if we just start by giving a little more love, to those who do and don’t deserve it, we can change the world.

    “Let my thoughts unspoken flower into kindness.” – a wise man once told me “let your actions be animated by pure and lofty motives.” The intent behind your attitude and your actions has to be in line with the kind of person you want to be and the kind of world you want to see.

    “Come out into the universe of light. Everything in the universe is yours, stretch out your arms and embrace it with love.” – The world is yours to shape and change. So go out there, and love. Love unconditionally.

    I’ve performed this song dozens of times, practiced it hundreds, but it never fails to not only take my breath away but also to make me reconsider what I am doing to reform the world today. Congratulations to you Jake on this piece. I cannot wait to sing it in Germany and to bring your message and the message of those great people you have been inspired by to a world that so desperately needs it.

  4. Zach Krampien

    As a member of the Choral that premiered this piece, after singing it in rehearsal probably a hundred times, I started feeling like there was nothing special about this piece. However, I heard the official recording a week after the premier and found myself in tears over the beauty of the piece. Never had such an emotional experience about a song before, much less one I had essentially heard everyday.

  5. Gail Lutze

    Absolutely beautiful! I was privileged to attend the workshop prior to the concert at VU, and then the concert. I do not know of any time that a piece of music has thrilled and delighted me as much as this. Thank You, Jake, for inspiring and thrilling us!

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