New choral composition dedicated to York music professor

Stephanie Martin, a professor in York’s Department of Music, Faculty of Fine Arts, and artistic director for Pax Christi Chorale, will lead an all-star group of performers for her group’s Christmas concert this weekend at Grace Church on-the-Hill in Toronto. And she’ll be leading them in the premiere of a new choral work written especially for her and her new choir.

Stephanie Martin

Right: Stephanie Martin

Baritone Michael Donovan, Canadian harpist Erica Goodman, soprano Merry-Anne Hutton, and a chamber orchestra featuring some of Toronto’s leading musicians join Toronto’s Pax Christi Chorale for A Frosty Christmas Eve When the Stars Were Shining on Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm at Grace Church, located at 300 Lonsdale Road.

Martin will conduct a concert program which offers the rare opportunity to hear Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols for SATB choir, Gerald Finzi’s In Terra Pax, and two works by Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on Christmas Carols based on glorious English carols collected from the countrysides of Herefordshire and Somerset, and Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus. The concert also features the premiere of Missa Pax Christi by Toronto composer Derek Holman, a work commissioned by Calvin Church Choir in honour of Martin, who served as the choir’s conductor for 11 years.

“What’s really remarkable about the piece are the extraordinary harmonies which are completely unpredictable, and strangely beautiful,” Martin said. “It was a difficult piece to learn but I think the choir now feels a great sense of accomplishment being able to perform the premiere of a new Canadian work.”

The commissioned mass was given to Martin, who was Holman’s teaching assistant at the University of Toronto, by Calvin Choir as a parting gift when Martin left that job to come to York in 2004. Martin and the group toured Scotland and Newfoundland, and recorded two CDs.

Holman attended one of the group’s rehearsals to get an idea of the nature of the group and wrote a piece that would really challenge them, said Martin. “Pax has performed new Canadian works before, but usually from younger composers – it’s very special to have a work written for us by one of our top veteran Canadian composers.”

Tickets for A Frosty Christmas Eve When the Stars Were Shining are $25, $22 for Seniors/Students and $5 for Children under 12. They may be purchased by calling 416-494-7889. For more information, visit