Since 2006 I have been a member of the Stella Maris Concert Choir based in Surrey. The choir gave me the opportunity to sing in venues in the Lower Mainland and Oregon and in several countries in Europe.
Most of our concerts, however, took place at the Church of the Good Shepherd, our home, and on Sunday, October 16, I took part in a particularly special concert.
First, it was our first sold-out concert since Christmas 2019. Second, it was the last time our choir performed music from our touring repertoire. With the retirement of our director at the end of 2022, the next few months will unfortunately bring the era of the Stella Maris Concert Choir to an end.
The choir began in 2000, the Jubilee year of the Church, when our director, Trudi Stammer, yearned to use her passion for music and her training in voice and piano to further testify to her faith. Her dream of evangelizing through music began to materialize when she assembled a choir, initially named the Jubilee Choir.
Using his Sunday choir at Good Shepherd Church as the base of his band, Stammer recruited members from other parishes in the deanery and people from the local community to join in the song every Wednesday evening. The members of the choir were eclectic in terms of age and origin: some were very knowledgeable and experienced in choral music, while others could not read a note! What they all shared was a love of music coupled with a strong faith. Under Stammer’s guidance, that was all they needed.
In December 2000, the choir performed its inaugural Christmas concert, which aimed to remind people living in a predominantly secular world why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. The success of this and subsequent Christmas concerts led to the choir’s “One Hour” choral meditations, which were held annually on Palm Sunday, providing audiences and choir members with the opportunity to “look with [our Lord] an hour” (Mt 26:40) and enrich their personal experiences of Holy Week.
Over the years, the choir has shared its gifts throughout the community, spreading the Christian message through concerts and interfaith performances at Guildford Mall, VanDusen Botanical Garden and the annual tree lighting ceremony at White Rock. . Proceeds from his concerts have supported local charities such as the Food Bank and Peace Arch Hospital, as well as the global community with their sponsorship of foster children through Chalice.
As the choir continued to grow and expand over the years, its name was changed to reflect its founding in Star of the Sea parish, rather than its connection to the Jubilee year. The Stella Maris (Latin for “Star of the Sea”) became the choir’s new label – a name it took to Europe in July 2009. The choir also toured Europe in 2012, 2014 and 2017. A journey in Ireland, scheduled for summer 2020, has been canceled due to the pandemic.
At the beginning, I was one of the youngest members of the choir, but after 16 years, my own gray hair appeared and even my children sometimes joined the group. Thanks to this choir, I grew up. I’ve enjoyed the friendships I’ve made and the songs I’ve sung and prayed about – for, as St. Augustine said, “He who sings prays twice.” I will miss our Wednesday rehearsals and the fun we had playing and sharing the camaraderie. This choir changed my life forever, not only with music but with love.
Now that our “ordinary time” concert is behind us, I take comfort in knowing that there will still be one last Christmas concert for this choir. In what will be a bittersweet performance, our group will don our black evening attire (and surely a bit of ‘bling’) to reunite at Good Shepherd Church for our grand farewell. I’m going to hide some tissues inside my binder.
For anyone interested in sharing the final moments of the Stella Maris Concert Choir with us, please come to Good Shepherd Church on Sunday, December 18 at 3:00 p.m. For more details on tickets and pricing, check the parish website (https://starofthesea.ca/) over the coming weeks.
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