Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song), the celebrated 1992 Christmas song by Amy Grant and Chris Eaton, visualizes through words and music the thoughts of Mary, travelling to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.
It’s a perfect example of how the Christmas season inspires works that continue to be profoundly moving, year after year, said Stella Maris choir director Trudi Stammer.
That’s why it’s fitting that the song not only be part of the program, but also the title of the choir’s Christmas concert, which takes place this Sunday (Dec. 17) at 3 p.m. at South Surrey’s Good Shepherd Church.
“It’s such a beautiful piece of music,” enthused the choir director.
“The last year Henri (late accompanist and arranger Henri Lorieau) was with us, he wrote an arrangement for soloist and choir – he really outdid himself on the arrangement, so I thought it would be good to bring it back now.”
Longtime Stella Maris member Anna Boots – herself a composer and choral director of note with the award-winning Our Lady Of Mercy children’s choir – will be spotlighted as the soloist providing the ‘voice’ of Mary.
“She’s a wonderful soloist and it’s also a wonderful way to remember Henri,” Stammer said, “along with his arrangement of O Holy Night, with solo by Kiel Magis, that we will be singing as well.”
Magis, who will also be featured with Boots in the performance of John Rutter’s Christmas Lullaby (“you can’t have a choral concert without doing something by Rutter – it’s impossible,” Stammer declared), continues to be a valued participant in the choir.
“His voice is so incredibly beautiful – it’s such a colourful voice, with such musicality,” Stammer said.
Also featured as a soloist will be choir member Carol Blender, on Kirby Shaw’s River Carol.
“She has an incredibly high voice; beautiful, clear as a bell,” Stammer said.
Of course, the celebrated chorus – well-travelled (including singing in the Vatican this summer), consistent and impressively stable in membership – will have many opportunities to shine in the program, which Stammer describes as a step-by-step musical retelling of the scriptural account of the birth of Jesus.
“We’re going to sing the Christmas story a little bit,” she said.
After a rousing, mood-establishing beginning – a rendition of O Come All Ye Faithful in which the choir will invite the participation of the audience – the story will start with John Purifoy’s My Soul Doth Magnify (with text adapted from Luke 1:46-55).
Among the musical stops along the way will be Welcome To Our World, by Jack Schrader and Chris Rice.
“It’s about welcoming the Christ child into the world today,” Stammer said – a world, she added, that, in terms of strife and upheaval, is not unlike the period of the Roman Empire into which Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago.
Other program selections – including the South American carols Cantar Allegria and El Cielo Canta – emphasize the international nature of Christmas, Stammer said.
“And this year we have wonderful instrumentalists to accompany the music: Daeyong Ra on trumpet, Michael Fabro on guitar, Butch Tinio on bass, Geneviene Wong on piano and Paul McFadden on organ.”
“Daeyong played The Last Post at our For Peace concert – his tone is beautiful and he really fills the instrument. I’ve never heard anybody play it quite like that.”
And Wong, the choir’s regular accompanist, is a seasoned keyboardist whose experience includes playing for a noted children’s choir in Edinburgh, Stammer said.
“She’s the kind of musician who can play anything and make it sound good,” Stammer said, adding that Wong is equally at home with traditional classical pieces such as Richard Hynson’s setting of Christina Rossetti’s In The Bleak Midwinter and the bluesy-gospel nuances of Larry Shackley’s What A Wonderful Child (incorporating Mary Had A Baby).
“She’s a real find – I’m sure that Henri must have sent her to us,” Stammer said.
The choir continues to function as an outreach to the whole community – not simply the Good Shepherd congregation alone, Stammer noted – and the choir is encouraged by its receptiveness.
“After the For Peace concert I received some lovely feedback from someone who is not part of the congregation, and who said he was so surpised at the music and how beautiful it was,” Stammer said.
“That’s why we sing. If we can touch the hearts of people – particularly at this time of year – if we can do that, then our mission is accomplished.”
The church is located at 2250 150 St.
Tickets are $10, $8 seniors and students, $25 family (two adults and one or more children) and are available from the church office (604-531-5739) or at the door.