Ave Maris Stella

  • Composer: Chan Ka Nin 
  • Canadian Work: Yes
  • Duration: 5:21
  • Sample Track:

Program Notes:

Toronto-based composer Chan Ka Nin (Frances Chan) originally wrote Ave Maris Stella for the Toronto Children’s Chorus and its Founder/Conductor Laureate Jean Ashworth Bartle.

Conductor Notes:

Taking the 11th century Vesper hymn, Ave Maris Stella, Chan Ka Nin tries through this musical setting to capture the eternal joy and beauty of purity associated with Mary, the star of the sea. Most of the SA treble lines are built around serene, calm, chant-like musical ideas while the piano accompaniment centers around an open fifth ostinato that runs throughout a major part of the piece. When the voices rest or complete a phrase the piano part often brings in a ‘flash of sound’ or energetic arpeggio which adds interest to the music as well as intensifies the text. Chan Ka Nin also uses 20th century compositional techniques such as quasi-spoken phrases, whispers, and plucking of piano strings to enhance the text. Although the piece is written for only two parts, the resultant sound varies tremendously in colour and texture. This is due not only to how the voices are utilized but also with the imaginative writing for piano. This piece offers wonderful challenges to both singers and pianist: trying for beautiful blend in the unison line, finding good tuning in the parallel fifths, fourths, and thirds, expressive singing and playing through melodic lines that are sometimes angular and disjointed; and bringing a confident sense of drama to the presentation. (Note by Diane Loomer)

Composer / Arranger Notes:

Ave Maris Stella was initially written for a community children’s chorus in Toronto. The request was for a short work in Latin. I was interested in the project because I have not written for a children’s chorus nor in Latin before. The text for Ave Maris Stella seems appropriate because it addresses Star of the Sea, Loving Mother of God. The community choir apparently performed and recorded this work on their own label without ever asking me to listen to their performance. Later when the Vancouver Chamber Choir read it in one of their workshops, a member of the Elektra Women’s Choir heard it and suggested it to co-director Diane Loomer. Eventually this work was performed and recorded by the Elektra Women’s Choir. I was so thrilled to hear the angelic voices that I have recommended to my wife to play this piece at my funeral.


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Ave, maris stella. Dei Mater alma, Atque semper Virgo, Felix caeli porta. Sumens illud Ave Gabrielis ore, Funda nos in pace, Mutans Evae nomen. Solve vincla reis, Profer lumen caecis, Mala nostra pelle. Bona cuncta posce. Monstra te esse matrem, Sumat, per te preces, Qui pro nobis natus Tulit esse tuus. Virgo singularis, Inter omnes mitis, Nos culpis solutos, Mites fac et castos. Vitam praesta puram, Iter para tutum. Ut videntes Jesum, Semper collaetemur. Sit laus Deo Patri, Summo Christo decus, Spiritui Sancto Tribus honor unus. Amen.


Hail, Star of the Sea, Loving Mother of God, And Virgin immortal, Heaven’s blissful portal! Receiving that “Ave” From the mouth of Gabriel, Reversing the name of “Eva,” Establish us in peace. Break the chains of sinners, Bring light to the blind, Drive away our evils, And ask for all good things. Show thyself to be a mother, That, through thee, He may accept our prayers, He who, born for us, chose to be your Son. O Incomparable Virgin, Meek above all others, Make us, freed from our faults, Meek and chaste. Keep our life pure, Make our journey safe, So that, seeing Jesus, We may rejoice together forever. Let there be praise to God the Father, And glory to Christ the most High, And to the Holy Spirit, And to the Three be one honor. Amen.