Stephen Hatfield, who has called Esquimalt home for over a decade, says his career in music was a “series of flukes” invoked by piano lessons from his parents when he was a kid. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Stephen Hatfield, who has called Esquimalt home for over a decade, says his career in music was a “series of flukes” invoked by piano lessons from his parents when he was a kid. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Victoria composer’s ‘Amazing Grace’ performed at funeral of John McCain

World renowned melodist ‘tickled pink’ to be part of public mourning

Amazing Grace is the kind of song you expect to hear at a memorial service, but when it sounded through the U.S. Naval Academy during the funeral service of U.S. Senator John McCain last week, it was a version composed by Esquimalt’s Stephen Hatfield.

“It’s been out there for a while,” he says of the piece he composed more than 20 years ago that includes a choral accompaniment and bagpipes and was performed by the Brophy Student Ensemble of Phoenix, Arizona.

“It’s so plaintive,” he describes. “It just goes into your heart and can make you weep when you hear the pipes and hear the music floating over you.”

RELATED: John McCain, U.S. war hero and presidential candidate, dies at 81

Hatfield, who grew up in 1950s Langford, credits his parents for providing him with an education in music.

“My parents busted themselves to get me good piano lessons,” he says. “I feel really fortunate to have had this career because I didn’t expect it. I didn’t think I was talented enough.”

Now a world-renowned choral composer, Hatfield – who has worked with choirs in Washington, D.C. – says he was “tickled pink” to have his music be part of a public mourning for a man who he felt had both dignity and honour.

“I admired the man,” he says. “He had a rather anodyne idea of what U.S. military intervention might accomplish but given his background he had the right.”

RELATED: McCain buried at Naval Academy alongside a longtime friend

McCain, who died Aug. 25 at the age of 81, after a year-long battle with brain cancer, was a prisoner of the Vietnam war who served his country politically for 35 years, including a run for president on the Republican ticket with then-Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Hatfield isn’t sure if McCain personally chose his version of Amazing Grace after it was widely reported the Senator had planned much of his own funeral, to which he did not invite President Donald Trump.

Regardless, to think his “little piece of music” could be a part of such a “deep public expression of grief” leaves Hatfield heartened.

RELATED: Canadian officials attend John McCain’s funeral in Washington

These days, Hatfield’s creative outlet is working with local a capella group, The Millies. Having long admired the work of Lynda Raino, Hatfield calls the chance to connect with the trio musically, “the ultimate fan story.”

“I just love working with them,” he says. “It’s so different from a concert choir. It’s just so cool to think that here’s somebody of whom I was such a big fan and they pull me aboard. It’s so rewarding.”

@kristyn_anthony

kristyn_anthony@vicnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grandmothers to Grandmothers is a campaign that connects Canadian grandmothers with grandmothers in Africa who are caring for children orphaned by AIDS. Here, they are in Kakuto, Uganda in 2018. (Kibuuka Mukisa Oscar photo)
Greater Victoria and African grandmothers celebrate solidarity with virtual concert

Grandmothers to Grandmothers supports women in Africa caring for children orphaned by AIDS

Naloxone is used to treat opioid overdoses. (Black Press Media files)
Island Health issues overdose advisory for Greater Victoria

The advisory directs bystanders to an overdose to call 911 and administer naloxone

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Driver who crashed into Uptown Walmart likely suffering mental health crisis, police say

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

Supporter Gordy Dodd cheers on HeroWork Victoria executive director Trevor Botkin, who will be in a lift for 36 hours beside Dodd’s Furniture and Mattress on April 16 and 17 to raise funds for the organization’s next project, a makeover of the Salvation Army’s Addiction and Rehabilitation Centre on Johnson Street. (Courtesy HeroWork Victoria)
HeroWork Victoria tackles makeover of Salvation Army rehab centre

Executive director to spend 36 hours living in a lift as fundraiser

West Shore RCMP is seeking information about a collision involving a car and a bicycle on Six Mile Road, near the Island Highway, at 11:30 a.m. on April 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP seeks information about collision between bike, car

Collision occured on Six Mile Road on April 7 and a bystander got the blue car’s plate number

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

RCMP on scene yesterday at the altercation at the trailer park. (Submitted photo)
Violent altercation at Port Hardy trailer park sends one to hospital

Police say man confronted another over airsoft shooting, then was attacked with a weapon

John Albert Buchanan was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2017 death of Richard Sitar. Pictured here, Buchanan walking to the court in Nanaimo last year. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Six years including time served for Nanaimo man in bludgeoning death

John Albert Buchanan sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo for death of Richard Sitar

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Guinevere, lovingly referred to by Jackee Sullivan and her family as Gwenny, is in need of a gynecological surgery. The family is raising money to help offset the cost of the procedure. (Jackee Sullivan/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Langley lizard’s owners raise funds for gynecological surgery

The young reptile is scheduled for operation on Tuesday

Facebook screenshot of the sea lion on Holberg Road. (Greg Clarke Facebook video)
VIDEO: Sea lion randomly spotted on remote B.C. logging road

Greg Clarke was driving home on the Holberg Road April 12, when he saw a large sea lion.

Defence counsel for the accused entered two not guilty pleas by phone to Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
B.C. seafood company owner fined $25K for eating receipt, obstructing DFO inspection

Richmond company Tenshi Seafood is facing $75,000 in fines as decided March 4 by a provincial court judge

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 2, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. NDP ministers defend ‘air tax,’ latest COVID-19 business aid

Empty home tax doesn’t apply to businesses, but space above them

Most Read