Ten Minutes of Eternal Light

Ten Minutes of Eternal Light

Sarah Ioannides-project-Saxophone Fusion

Ten Minutes of Eternal Light

A clarinet melody. Staccato octaves on electric piano. Drawings. Poetry. Children.

If this doesn’t sound like an average symphony piece, then you’re absolutely right — and that’s what makes Eternal Light special. Forged into a cohesive, sparkling whole from rough diamonds of poetry, art, and music by Tacoma’s young people, the multimedia piece premiered by Symphony Tacoma on YouTube last weekend isn’t just a pretty gem. It’s 10 minutes of a vision into a hopeful future from a troubled present, of a new musical order where classical instruments fuse with electronica and voices, and where light triumphs.

Eternal Light came into being from a call to Tacoma youth to submit music, dance, poetry, or art on the theme of “eternal light,” inspired by the ethereal “Lux Eterna” movement from Mozart’s Requiem. Predictably, symphony director Sarah Ioannides, whose creative idea this was, and who directed the project, received a stream of work that on the surface seems difficult to weave together (the prelude is a literal collage of these raw submissions over a pulsing beat).

But throw in some talented adults and the picture comes into focus. Electronic composer Will Scharnberg helped sculpt teenager Kevin Kernie’s percussive octaves and rolling minor 9ths into an arc of hope, minimalist but intriguing. Orchestrator Kim Scharnberg wove in simple parts for eight symphony musicians: violin, cello, oboe, clarinet, flute, horn, percussion, harp. Singers from the Tacoma Youth Chorus added backing.

Meanwhile, filmmaker Fernanda Lamuño took all those green-screened home or studio recordings, some stunning paintings and drawings by Audrey Hartman (Ioannides’ daughter) plus soaring poetry by Holly Pierce, and wove them into a luminous, dreamlike whole.

“Burning with words, called from the oceanside cliff” floats over masked friends on a beach, then a time-lapse of the artist herself. “Whisper words, said again, carried along by roaring winds, grown from lungs that breathe a saving breath” flows into actual singers, their breath supporting the music, alone yet together. Through all comes visions of Ioannides conducting, wreathed in a smile and a swirling, green-blue background.

The theme of “music…replacing what I lost” drives with the fast, fluid rhythm against images of stars wheeling high over Tacoma and through the outline of a human face. Finally, the eternity ends with a pinnacle of a staccato piano octave and finger cymbal, and a feeling that yes, we will get past this present time into something better, more innovative, as yet unimagined except maybe by these imaginative young people in our midst.

But don’t stop there. The beauty of online concerts is the chance you get to explore the context behind them. Side by side on the YouTube channel is a delightful behind-the-scenes video, playfully edited, showing the creative process (lots of Zoom sessions), Ioannides coaching her young singers (more Zoom), recording bloopers and triumphs, and some very thoughtful reflections by everyone involved on what they learned from this project.

What would Mozart, making a cameo visual and musical appearance in the prelude, have thought of all this? Probably sheer delight that other young people like him were pouring out, some 250 years later, that same eternal musical light.

Eternal Light can be viewed on the Symphony Tacoma YouTube channel.

Saxophone Fusion

Saxophone Fusion

Sarah Ioannides-project-Saxophone Fusion

Saxophone Fusion

A demonstration of Sarah’s creative curation of music, art and desserts. Roberto Sierra’s Caribbean Rhapsody for saxophone and orchestra with its classical and Latin jazz influences. Poulenc’s satirical Sinfonietta, seeking to free French music from foreign domination in post-World War I Europe. Milhaud’s La Création du monde, telling the creation story according to African folk mythology with influences of Harlem Renaissance jazz, accompanied by film; a multi-collaborative effort with Cincinnati Cincinnati Art Museum. The use of Saxophone in this program is a pivotal anchor where classical music to branches out into jazz idiom. A program to fuse together the French, Classical, Latino and African-American jazz idioms.

“..Ioannides’ leadership was deft and energetic. …McCombs, a faculty member at NKU, created an inventive film – fusing his own imagery in the Overture with artworks from the Cincinnati Art Museum and even the conductor Ioannides. It was perfectly synched to the music, all the way to “The Kiss”.      ~Janelle Gelfand, Cincinnati Enquirer

In May 2021, Saxophone Fusion was included in Symphony Tacoma’s digital ENCORE Series accompanied by a video produced by Sarah Ioannides. You can watch the digital performance HERE.

Romeo & Juliet

Romeo & Juliet

Sarah Ioannides-Project-Romeo and Juliet

Romeo & Juliet

Symphonic Drama by Prokofiev & Shakespeare

“A fantastic experience that blended drama and orchestra into a touching and profound live performance experience” (South Sound Magazine)

An original semi-staged production that synthesizes Prokofiev’s ballet score with the drama of the most epic love story of all time. The drama unfolds seamlessly through two acts of music and theater, with 5 actors from the Tacoma School of the Arts enacted excerpts from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet throughout this dramatic performance, which was planned and scripted by Sarah Ioannides.

Read Review:

Symphony Tacoma’s Romeo and Juliet Collaboration = Big Win for Community

“On October 19th, Sarah Ioannides and Symphony Tacoma performed music from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet. This performance was a fantastic experience that blended drama and orchestra into a touching and profound live performance experience… a modern, creative staging for this music and acting—impressive and relevant work from our local arts community.

 This production was all about the orchestra music, and the acting provided reference to the story the music was telling. The flow of the performance felt natural, and Prokofiev’s score was always the center of attention.

 Believable excitement, nervousness, passion and romance all delivered through Prokofiev’s music, Symphony Tacoma’s artistry, and words from Shakespeare.

 This Symphony Tacoma concert was a testament to the creativity and collaboration that our community thrives on. The audience received the performance with enthusiastic applause and admiration. The teamwork and creativity of Sarah Ioannides, School of the Arts, and the Symphony Tacoma musicians has provided a unique and profound shared experience in the performing arts.” November 2019 South Sound Magazine



Sarah Ioannides-Project-Fire Mountain


Music By Dan Ott & Film by Derek Klein

“…a culmination of creativity, education, outreach and advocacy that touched our community and brought people together in a powerful shared experience”.-John Falksow, Tacoma Tribune

An environmental commission and a multimedia experience featuring video, glass art and music. A symposium exploring changes to the delicate ecosystem of the mountain and its glaciers. A collaboration between the performing and visual arts and the National Park Service. A once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunity for area high school students.

Conceived by Sarah Ioannides and commissioned by Symphony Tacoma, this was a collaborative effort between Symphony Tacoma, Museum of Glass, Hilltop Artists and Mount Rainier National Park to create a cross-disciplinary multimedia artistic event culminating with the Symphony’s season finale. Commemorating the Centennial of the National Parks System, the project engaged area residents in music and glass art and raised awareness of the plight of Mount Rainier’s glaciers, which are melting at an alarming rate.

This multifaceted commission was featured in Symphony Magazine’s article, “Mission: Commission” in Winter 2019.

“Symphony Tacoma’s community engagement was multi-pronged for Fire-Mountain, which commemorated the centennial of the National Park Service. The ambitious project conceived by Ioannides had involved 155 performers and multiple organizations, including the National Park Service. For example, orchestra students from a local high school explored Mount Rainier on snowshoes, where they learned about the glacial ecosystem and heard from the composer about his creative pro­cess. At a panel discussion prior to the world premiere, the conductor, composer, a climatologist,and a National Park deputy discussed the effects of climate change on the mountain”. ~Symphony Magazine

“Fire Mountain” ended in an elongated, disintegrating diminuendo. The violin sections melted into a single thread of sound, and their whisper faded into profound silence. This silence clung on for a long time. It seemed that nobody in the Pantages Theater wanted this moment to end. The silence broke, and the audience launched into an immediate standing ovation”. ~Tacoma Tribune


Water Passion

Water Passion

Sarah Ioannides-Project-Tan Duns-Water Passion

Water Passion

Tan Dun’s Water Passion After St. Matthew  is a colossal feast for ears and ears.  

“Ever sure of the work’s choreography and architecture, the director guided securely and seamlessly to the very end, which saw all performers uplit with gold as they silently plunged hands into the water and let it fall.”

​The first conductor selected by Tan Dun to conduct his Water Passion After St. Matthew at the Perth International Arts Festival and the Metamorphosis Festival in Athens in 2016, Ioannides has led many operas, ballets and conducted at festivals worldwide, including the European premiere of Stephen Paulus’ The Woodlanders in Oxford, British Youth Opera, Curtis Opera Theatre, Tacoma Opera & Ballet and Spoleto Festival.

While assistant conductor to Tan Dun she conducted Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Flemish Radio Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Since, Ioannides has directed numerous performances of Water Passion internationally including Symphony Tacoma, Perth International Festival & Athens Metamorphosis. She has been involved with the project from the world premier in Stuttgart as choir director of Berlin’s RIAS Kammerchor and has been conductor, production director for multiple performances worldwide.

“A fine performance under the sure hand of conductor Sarah Ioannides.”   The Australian

Longer Review on the page with more: ‘Water Passion’ proves the Tacoma Symphony’s musical chops and vitality

By Rosemary Ponnekanti, Tacoma Tribune

 “ Tacoma has proven that not only does it have the chops to do a major contemporary classical work, it’s got the audience to appreciate it. A host of forces, from conductor Sarah Ioannides to the Tacoma Symphony Chorus to soloists, stage crew and sponsors came together Sunday afternoon at the Pantages Theater to perform Tan Dun’s epic “Water Passion.” The theatrical oratorio was inspired by St. Matthew and Bach, but takes both into new realms of tonality and spirituality…..

Holding all these forces together, along with the dramatic lighting (red for blood, gold for rebirth) and amplified sounds was Ioannides, whose personal connection to Tan Dun made the piece possible in the first place. “

Glennie & Portraits

Glennie & Portraits

Sarah Ioannides-Project

Glennie & Portraits

Evelyn Glennie

World premiere of the percussion concerto, Portraits of Immortal Love by Sean O’Boyle written for Symphony Tacoma and Spartanburg Philharmonic Orchestra for percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“‘Portraits of Immortal Love’ constantly evolves into emotional sound stories depicting the power of love of all those involved in World War 1. Although this piece is a percussion concerto, the composer writes beautifully for the orchestra, allowing everything and everyone to shine thus creating air and balance in his music. The writing for percussion has great balance between exciting virtuosity and sheer beauty.” ~Dame Evelyn Glennie

“…as a showcase of percussion colors – spooky waterphone, celestial bowed crotales, inhuman shell chimes – and as an emotional tribute to the love, courage and sacrifice of those who lived through World War I, it’s both brilliant and heartfelt.” ~Rosemary Ponnekanti, Tacoma New Tribune