Concert celebrates Mamma's
Even before Christopher Simmons and Debra Da Vaughn began their current season of concerts at St. Mark's Anglican Church in Ocean Park, the idea of a Mother's Day concert had been in the back of their minds.
After the well-known husband-wife, soprano-tenor team joined the congregation, they put on "a couple of random concerts," Simmons said, which led to the idea of building an annual series around such holidays as Remembrance Day, St. Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.
He remembers it being suggested at that time that it would be wonderful if – in addition to the expected Mother's Day tributes – they could find some way to include mothers who have lost children.
"We hadn't heard of anything focusing on that or even recognizing that," Simmons said, adding that such a segment, including selections from composers as varied as Gustav Mahler and Eric Clapton, has become part of their first Mother's Day concert program, this Sundayat 3 p.m. at the church, 12953 20 Ave.
But Mamma Mia! – which reunites them with such versatile colleagues as mezzo soprano Tamara Croft, baritone Andrew Greenwood, pianist Karen Lee-Morlang and guitarist Francis van Roode – is a lot more; a celebration of all the aspects of motherhood drawn from a very wide range of classical and pop melodies.
"We wanted to put a whole concert together with music about mothers, but it's actually harder to find than you might imagine," he said.
Hence a concert that veers all the way from country music to German art songs, with excursions into the classic and unabashedly sentimental mother archetypes of Italian and Jewish culture: Cesare Andrea Bixio's Mamma, sung by Simmons, and Jack Yellen and Lew Pollack's My Yiddishe Momme, sung by Greenwood.
"There's actually a lot of mother songs in the country idiom, so we've drawn some from there, including a beautiful piece by Martina McBride that Debra is singing, In My Daughter's Eyes," Simmons said, adding that Da Vaughn will also venture into Celine Dion territory for Miracle.
"And a lot of German lieder are about being a mother, or in praise of mothers," he said, noting the presence of Richard Strauss' Fruhlingslied, Johannes Brahms' Weigenlied in the program.
Other selections range from Elvis Presley's The Wonder Of You to Reba McIntyre's When You Have A Child.
Simmons said he and Da Vaughn find they relate to the music differently since becoming parents themselves (their daughter Cassandra just celebrated her third birthday) and the timing of concert is also very significant to him as the first Mother's Day since his own mother passed in December.
"It's a chance to give thanks," he said, adding he will also sing "a lovely piece – A Mother's Love, by Amy Jill Jordan and Stephen MacKinnon."
But it wouldn't be a Simmons-Da Vaughn concert without having a little fun with the theme, either, which is where Croft and Da Vaughn's rendition of The Mom Song comes in.
"It's a wonderful duet for them, written by the comedienne Anita Renfroe, which includes everything a mom finds herself saying over the course of a day, to the tune of the William Tell Overture.
And then there's Ernie K-Doe's 1950s rhythm and blues novelty Mother-In-Law, which Simmons hopes will be taken in the humourous spirit in which its intended.
"Debra's mother is going to be there, and I have a wonderful relationship with my mother-in-law, so I'm going to have to be careful when I introduce that one," he laughed.
Tickets ($15, supporting St. Mark's music programs) are available from 1-800-838-3006 or online at http://mammamia.brownpapertickets.com