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Christmas Concert Shines Light on Mary


The Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) Chamber Singers will usher in the Christmas season with a concert focused on Mary, Jesus’ mother, Thursday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m., in Martin Chapel.

Directed by Ken J. Nafziger, professor of music at EMU, the Chamber Singers will blend the theme of Mary with unique holiday songs and carols. The 75-minute concert will include “Mary’s Song,” a piece composed by Celah Pence, a 1986 EMU alum, “Gabriel’s Message,” a Basque carol arranged by Joshua Shank and “Missa Brevis in Honorem Beatae Mariae Virginis” by Lithuanian composer Kristina Vasiliauskaite.

“Mary’s Song” and “Gabriel’s Message”

Commissioned earlier this year, Mary’s Song is a four-stanza piece that focused on the different stories in Mary’s life, according to Pence. “It was a meaningful experience, looking through Mary’s eyes at the events of her life and the responses they seemed to evoke in her,” said Pence.

Pence said two unique experiences in Mary’s life—the crucifixion and friendship between Mary and her sister, Elizabeth—shaped the composing process.

“I was touched by her spiritual connection Mary had with Elizabeth,” said Pence. “In addition, the crucifixion took on new levels of stark reality for me as I pondered what it would be like to lose an adult child and not be able to offer any solace or help in their darkest hour.”

“The concert is focused around Mary’s song, the Magnificat, a song that has been an important part of the church’s traditions for centuries,” said Nafziger. “The song combines both praise and justice that will be explored in this concert.”

Additional concert repertoire

The repertoire for the concert includes also a variety of carols and hymns related to Mary and the Magnificat: music of medieval Spain, Guatemala, African-American spirituals, and U.S. composers Ben Allaway and Craig Carnahan.

Admission to the program is free; donations are welcomed for the EMU music student scholarship fund.

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