Oh Great Mystery was written for a concert of sacred choral music (2004) that occurred at Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario. In this premier performance, the piece was used as a means of reflecting on the place of the divine feminine image in the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ. The central place of the “Blessed Virgin” both in this ancient text, “Oh Magnum Mysterium,” and within the context of the birth narrative brings to our attention the need for balance between the rational sphere of the faith and the earth born wisdom, represented in the mystery of Christ’s birth amongst the animals. To accentuate this sacred theme, members of the audience held candles throughout the performance. The flame of the Christ candle was slowly passed from one individual’s candle to the next over the duration of the work.
“Corlis’s own superb compositions were the highlight of the evening. His Hodie Christus featured a whisper-sung chant in dancelike rhythm as backdrop to a more angular melodic line. Gradual buildup finally swelled into a radiating Gloria in excelsis, bursting with vigour and truth.
“It was Corlis’s final piece of the performance O Great Mystery, however, that resonated the spirit of the evening. The audience enthusiastically responded to Corlis’ call to sing a chant which alternated with glorious choral themes and variations.
This mesmerizing call and response provided a unified feeling of reverence, calm, and peace; and as the dynamics swelled, unity and power. Ultimately, it was a fitting finale and also a symbol of the many voices that together made this a unique blending of art, community, spirit and compassion.”
– Steven Preece, Reviewing, Kitchener-Waterloo Record, December 18, 2006.