By Fr Ed Eherer, C.Ss.R.
Saint Alphonsus was an accomplished musician in his own right and recognized that music could be a powerful tool for evangelization. So it’s no surprise that today many of our Redemptorist confreres and lay associates are gifted musicians. Jeannie Pernal is one such person. As the founder and director of the Grande Prairie Boys’ Choir, faith and music have always gone hand-in-hand – her musical repertoire often reflects the rich contributions made by people of faith over the centuries. Since arriving in Grande Prairie, Jeannie and her family have come to know the Redemptorists well and she herself is a member of the local associates’ group.
This past year, as the Redemptorist family looked for ways to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the icon of Perpetual Help, Jeannie naturally thought “with music, of course” – specifically, with a newly commissioned piece of choral music performed by the Grande Prairie Boys’ Choir. That initial conversation led to several more, eventually leading to a formal proposal to the Edmonton-Toronto Provincial Council for a musical commission. Happily, the council gave its blessing.
To write the score, Jeannie enlisted Edmonton composer Trent Worthington. Trent has worked many times with Jeannie and the boys, as composer, arranger, conductor and mentor, and so was very familiar with the choir’s “sound.” For the text, Jeannie and Trent chose the words of the Magnificat, perhaps the oldest Marian hymn, found in the Gospel of Luke. It goes without saying that over the winter months, Jeannie and the choir rigorously rehearsed the piece in preparation for its debut.
The world premiere of the piece, entitled Magnificat anima mea, was set for May 21st at the historical McDougall United Church in Edmonton as part of Podium 2016, the annual gathering of choral conductors from across Canada. This venue offered ideal exposure not only for the choir but also for the composition. Upon hearing the Magnificat, it was clear that all the hard work had paid off. The performance was outstanding, as it evoked a delightful sense of joy and brightness, quite appropriate for a celebration of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It must be said that following the concert there was a noticeable buzz about Jeannie, the choir, and the Magnificat. I think even St. Alphonsus would say, “Bravissimo!”
As part of their summer tour, the boys’ choir again performed the Magnificat at St. Patrick’s parish in Toronto during the Perpetual Help Triduum at the end of June. The Redemptorists are thankful to Jeannie and Trent and the boys for helping us honour Our Mother of Perpetual Help in such a beautiful way.
To watch the performance of the Magnificat at St. Patrick’s parish, please go
www.romancatholictv.com and click the link at the top of the page.