Mary McDonald is a multi-talented musician from Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to her work as a composer, arranger, producer, pianist, and organist, she currently serves as the organist for Central Baptist Church in Knoxville. Her music and talents have blessed choirs and congregations across the country for more than twenty-five years.
Mary is the composer of more than 600 published choral anthems, several Christmas and Easter cantatas, and numerous keyboard collections. She is also active as a choral clinician, traveling throughout the United States conducting workshops and concertizing. Her unique blend of heart, hands, and humor, combined with a wide range of writing and performing styles, keep her in constant demand. One of Mary's greatest joys has been serving as accompanist for the Tennessee Men's Chorale since 1985. In 2000, Mary served as the first woman President of the Southern Baptist Church Music Conference. She is currently on the board of the John Ness Beck Foundation and is a member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Jubilate Music Group President/CEO Mark Cabaniss sat down with Mary to discuss her newest Christmas musical, Peace Has Come.
MC: Welcome, Mary! Thank you for taking time out of your busy travel and writing schedule to speak with us today.
MM: It's my pleasure Mark!
MC: I remember the first Christmas musical of yours that I heard was way back in 1988 titled BEHOLD THE KING OF GLORY. Although I was already familiar with your writing by then, I remember how impressed I was with that musical. Was that your first ever musical?
MM: I had composed 2 cantatas prior to the 1988 release of BEHOLD THE KING OF GLORY; In 1984, "This Day of Celebration" was a collaborative work with John Purifoy and, in 1987, "The Dawn of Risen Glory" was also released through Purifoy Publishing.
MC: I remember those as well but didn’t know they preceded the 1988 work. Your new Christmas musical this year is PEACE HAS COME. We’re excited to be the publisher of it! I remember when we were first discussing the idea of basing the musical on the subject of peace, we both felt such a subject would be very timely, given the state of our world these days. What are your thoughts on the subject of “peace”?
MM: I was once asked for my favorite word and, after careful thought, responded with “peace.” It is something I constantly strive for in my own life – to find a quiet, calm escape from the busy, steady pace of a musician’s full agenda. For it is in that stillness where I find God - the Author and giver of true inner peace. Christmas has a way of settling us down and reminding of what really matters in life: family/children, Jesus, miracles, and the most sustaining gifts of joy, love, hope, and peace. Christ came to bring peace to the world, not as the world suggests but, rather, everlasting holiness and peace in the form of a baby - a King!
MC: Beautifully expressed. What about the content and musical styles in the work?
MM: Throughout this musical, we acknowledge our need and yearning for Christ to come into the world. Varying styles, from classical to soulful sounds, provide a colorful pallet from which this endearing story is told. Well-known tunes and carols, joined by soloists, children and congregation, offer a pleasing familiarity and ease in the learning process. New tunes featuring lyrics by the gifted Rose Aspinall, along with beautiful narrative supplied by you weave together this significant story in a clear, powerful delivery. The orchestrations are by the very talented Ed Hogan. Careful attention has been given to the pacing of this work so that the story is clearly conveyed through narrative and song. An optional, final Reprise reminds us why we celebrate this special season of Christmas.
MC: The musical can be performed with the songs and narration only, or with drama. Please talk about the Drama Companion/Production Guide that is offered separately.
MM: This is an optional reproducible manual which includes a simple dramatization which weaves the songs together beautifully, and is very easy to produce with as few as 6 people, or many more. For those churches which may have never used drama with their Christmas musical in the past, this is an excellent one to start with. Plus, there are excellent staging, audition, production, and promotional tips and more also included in the manual.
MC: Thank you for creating PEACE HAS COME, Mary, with its timely and timeless message.
MM: It’s my joy, Mark, to have been involved in this project and my prayer is that it impacts lives significantly this year and for future years to come with the wonderful message of God’s peace.