Covenant Presents: Les Miserables (Concert Version)
At the start of the school year, the idea that the school may be able to pull off some sort of production was a “Dream We Dreamed” and nothing more. But as the months went by, the Arts Department tapped into its creative reserves and put together a plan for it to become reality. Last weekend, the students put on a beautiful, moving, and socially distanced version of Les Miserables (Concert Version) out on the Colonnade at the Hickory Campus for an outdoor audience. We were incredibly blessed by their talents and performances, and it was an important story for us to hear.
Director Jerry King wrote in his notes:
“Good, solid stories from ‘not here, not now can serve powerfully by setting before us ‘others’ as unnervingly sharp reflections of us; and situations that run eerily parallel to things we still experience; and conflicts that we ourselves may be embroiled in at this very moment. Or will be next year. The great stories just keep on echoing and echoing.
Victor Hugo’s massive novel, Les Miserables, is one of those enduring ‘great stories.’ The characters, plotlines, and twists are many, as you would expect from a 19th-century novel. But the compelling power that we have discovered once again as we have worked on this concert opera lies in the utter relevance of these nearly 200-year-old depictions of the human condition – at its best and at its worst. During just our final week of rehearsals, judicial verdicts have been rendered; political leaders have displayed both wisdom and detachment, compassion and self-serving ambition; social divides have widened and deepened; and troubled foster children have suddenly and violently lost their lives. Then is now. We are all ‘les miserables.’
Jesus was emphatic in his assessment of the human condition. No one was truly whole, healthy, sighted, pure in heart. He came, he said, for ‘the sick,’ to seek and save ‘the lost.’ Our constant temptation is the same as the one Javert succumbs to: to put ourselves in a separate category from ‘les miserables,’ and imagine ourselves somehow exceptional, better, above. Javert’s deeply mistaken perspective cost him his life. And that kind of self-security still withers, hardens, kills.
By blessed contrast, humble grace continues to make alive, to redeem, to change the trajectory of lives. The long, tortured journey of Valjean’s life turns out to be one of beautiful redemption when all is said and done, having turned on one seemingly small, hidden moment of middle-of-the-night grace. You just never know….
And that is the central theme that Hugo dares to assert in his masterpiece: that the worst that this world can throw up is not the end of the matter. Even facing all of this human tragedy square in the face, he proclaims hope. Hope for all of us ‘lost in the valley of the night;’ hope for ‘the wretched of the earth’ who are ‘climbing toward the light.’ Drawing directly from Isaiah’s prophetic imagery, Les Miserables closes with the anthemic invitation to us, each and all, to look toward the day when ‘they will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord; they will walk behind the plowshare, they will put away the sword; the chains will be broken and all men will have their reward!’
Somehow, the musical retelling of the Les Miserables story seems strangely fitting during this year of so much trouble, sickness, sorrow, anger, and death. ‘Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?’
Located in Charlottesville, VA, The Covenant School is a non-denominational, private, Christian day school for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, visual and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.