Molly Fillmore’s voice is an inspiration in any language.
Fillmore proved that Tuesday evening during two sold-out performances at St. Timothy’s Catholic Church, which seats nearly 1,200 people. She sang “Silent Night” in English and German.
The Grammy-award winning mezzo-soprano played the leading role in the church’s “Christmas Spectacular,” directed by Maestro Bill Doherty. The 126-member St. Timothy’s choir also performed under Doherty’s direction, with guest appearances by members of his Central Florida Lyric Opera Company. (Also known as The Villages Lyric Opera Company,)
It was Fillmore who hit all the high notes and turned the holiday event into an uplifting spiritual journey with “Silent Night” or “Stille Nacht.”
She sang the first verse of the song in English and then offered the rest in German. “It’s such a beautiful, moving song,” Fillmore said before the program. “We wanted to sing it in German to make it special.”
Another angelic performance by Fillmore came when she sang, “Ave Maria.” The church was a fitting place for her heavenly voice and reverential emotion.
“This music is so special and so powerful,” she said. “We hope it inspires people.”
Doherty seemed inspired by Fillmore’s performance.
“She will go down in history as one of the great American singers,” he said. “This was a great night for everyone here. I’m proud to be able to work with so many talented people.”
The first half of the 90-minute program had a more spiritual feeling, while the second half was filled with holiday cheer.
Singers Devin Eatmon, Sam Reynolds, Sheila Steis, Theo Tyrrell and Heather BeirneArd joined forces on stage for some Celtic Christmas music and carols.
Then the Handbell Choir of St. Timothy’s rang out the spirit of the season with “The First Noel.”
Individual performances included Sheila Steis’ uplifting solo on “Star of Bethlehem.” Devin Eatmon displayed a booming operatic style on “Believe.” Sam Reynolds’ bass voice fit just right on “Joy to the World.” And Tony Brown captured the intimate essence of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” Just to make the season right, Heather BeirneArd offered a warm glow on “The Christmas Song.”
Christmas also has its fun side and the biggest laugh of the night came when Reynolds sang the “Grinch That Stole Christmas,” to his infant grandchild. The kid had on a pair of antlers and stole the show from Grandpa.
The rest of the singers joined forces on such joyful Christmas standards as “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
But the program kept coming back to Fillmore. She grew up in Warren, Ohio and now teaches voice at the University of North Texas. She has performed with the San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera. Last year Fillmore earned a Grammy for her work with the Metropolitan Opera.
“I’m glad to be in The Villages and I’m glad to be singing Christmas music,” Fillmore said. “The people here are so friendly and enthusiastic about music. And this time of year, the music is so uplifting.
“I love this music. When I was a child my parents had the old orchestral recordings of Christmas songs, and I always enjoyed listening to them. I hope we can help people get into the holiday spirit, and also the spirit of giving and sharing.”
Fillmore shared her talent on such classics as “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Holy Night.” Those are old standards everyone knows but she made them fresh and vibrant.
“Molly is a unique talent,” Doherty said. “And this has been a wonderful night.
Tony Violanti covers entertainment for Villages-News.com. He can be reached at email@example.com