“I am convinced that music really is the universal language of beauty which can bring together all people of good will on earth.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

Music is a vital part of our liturgical tradition. Encouraging others to make music and providing beautiful meditation hymns is an essential part of our weekly prayer. At Immaculate Heart of Mary Church we believe that all instruments and all people, regardless of musical background, may blend together to glorify God in song.
(718) 871-1310, ext. 14
Steven Vaughan, the Director of Music Ministry, is one of the very few musicians who have been hired to perform as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He has sung with the National Chorale for 19 years, and made his debut as a pianist accompanying the Professional Performing Arts High School Choir. He began playing Mass in Rockford, Illinois when he was only 14 years old. After receiving a bachelor's degree of music from Loyola University New Orleans, (the only Jesuit College of Music in the United States) he earned a master's degree from Tulane University. In addition to Lincoln Center, he's performed in numerous concert halls and churches, including Carnegie Hall; Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris and St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. He has sung recently with the Brooklyn Diaconate Choir, The Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale and the Brooklyn Philharmonia. He currently serves on Brooklyn's Diocesan Music Commission, and the Piano Steering Committee of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. He is a member of the American Guild of Organists and is on staff with the National Chorale as Artist-in-Residence, Educational ProgramsHis most recent recording, Enchanted Saint-Saëns, may be purchased at CDBaby.com or heard on Spotify.

The Spirit of Christmas Future

posted Dec 16, 2017, 11:14 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Dec 16, 2017, 11:15 AM ]

This Christmas, as our parish celebrates its quasquicentennial, imagine what Christmas was like 125 years ago in 1892:

New-fangled electric tree lights were all the rage, and metal ornament hooks were introduced that year. Composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky also debuted his brand new Christmas ballet The Nutcracker in St. Petersburg.

Hanging stockings in anticipation of Santa Claus’ night-time arrival was a brand new tradition, causing many concerned clergymen to preach against it because they feared that the emergence of such a folk culture would draw people’s attention away from their celebration of Christ’s birth! (Were they right about some people?)

"Tasteful" presents were articles that did not cost any money, such as a piece of music, a hand-written note, a few flowers, or a handmade work of love. If you did have money to spend on presents, it was considered a waste to spend it on people richer than yourself, but a virtue to give to anyone poorer.

Christmas dinner was either turkey, boiled fish or boiled ham, served with mushroom patties, potato snow, minced cabbage, creamed tomatoes, sweet potato croquettes or mayonnaise of beets. Sound appetizing?

But we can’t just look back. Our parish must also consider the next 125 years, so for the 13
th Annual Lighting of Trees and Angels, Immaculate Heart of Mary celebrates “The Spirit of Christmas Future” as our Faith Formation students lead us in classic Christmas carols. As they do every year, the Boy Scouts will usher in the Peace Light. cuori BELLissimi! will accompany us on a couple carols, and our adult choir will perform as well, for a truly multi-generational experience. It all starts at 6:30 PM in church, with the lighting around 7:00 PM. Come and support our future!

For Us a Child is Born; Bach Cantata 142

posted Dec 10, 2017, 10:18 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Dec 10, 2017, 10:18 AM ]

This Friday, December 15
th, at 7:30 in the evening, the Diocesan Choir, Celestial Voices and Chamber Orchestra present “A Celebration of the Nativity” at Resurrection-Ascension Church in Rego Park. I’m singing with them, and in addition to many carols, we’ll be performing the Christmas cantata Uns ist ein Kind geboren (Unto us a child is born), BWV 142.

A cantata is a vocal composition usually with soloists, choir and orchestra, typically in several movements. While Bach was working at St. Thomas in Leipzig, he started a project of composing one cantata for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year. Most Bach scholars don't believe he composed this particular cantata, although the identity of the actual composer has not been established. It's considered plausible that his predecessor may have composed this one to complete an unfinished cycle, since a cantata with this title is listed as having been performed in both of the main churches in Leipzig—the Thomaskirche and Nikolaikirche–on Christmas Day, 1720, though Bach was no longer working there at this time, and there's no record of this cantata being performed before then.

The libretto's text was written by a German Lutheran pastor and first published in 1711. While it’s opening text is “Unto us a child is born”, it’s final chorale translates as:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Praised be God, 
Let us sing from the depths of our heart, 
For God has wrought such joy today, 
That at no time should we ever forget it. 

Handel's Messiah

posted Dec 3, 2017, 11:29 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Dec 3, 2017, 11:30 AM ]

Like opera, an oratorio uses a choir, soloists and orchestra. However, it’s usually not staged, and the characters don’t interact. And while opera plots deal with history or mythology, oratorios usually have sacred topics. In George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, Part I—often called the “Christmas” section—begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation of the nativity to the shepherds, the only "scene" taken from the Gospels.

It premiered in Dublin in April, 1742 and after an initially modest reception, its popularity gained, eventually becoming one of the most frequently performed choral works. And you have many opportunities to hear it this season if you wish…

Connor Whelen will be singing it on Thursday, December 7
th at St. Ann and the Holy Trinity Church, at 7:00 PM, joining forces with the Brooklyn College Symphonic Choir, Conservatory Singers, Conservatory Orchestra and Packer Collegiate Collage Choir. “Music from Good Shepherd” presents it on Sunday, December 10th at 6:00 PM. The National Chorale’s 50th Annual Handel’s Messiah Sing-In is on Thursday, December 14th in Lincoln Center’s David Geffin Hall, where the audience is the chorus! Additional performances can be heard by the New York Philharmonic, or at Trinity Wall Street Church, St. Thomas’ Church, or on your own speakers...

Wachet Auf (Sleepers Wake)

posted Dec 3, 2017, 11:18 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Dec 3, 2017, 11:18 AM ]

Today’s Gospel from Matthew 25 is the story of the wise and foolish virgins waiting for the bridegroom. This Scripture reading is the basis of John Sebastian Bach’s popular Cantata No. 140, Wachet Auf (Sleepers Wake).

A cantata is a vocal composition usually with soloists, choir and orchestra, typically in several movements. While Bach was working at St. Thomas in Leipzig, he started a project of composing one cantata for each Sunday and holiday of the liturgical year. This one completed his second annual cycle. And although it was only performed once at St. Thomas, in 1731, it was one of the first to be published and was one of the few to be performed regularly in the years after his death.

In essence, Bach’s cantatas are miniature theology lessons: the scripture of the day is presented, and he then offers his own commentary through arias and duets, all summarized in a final chorale. In this one, the opening chorus tells the story of ten women who retire for the evening—five with oil in their lamps, and five without. In the duet with violin obbligato, the soprano represents the soul, while the baritone is the voice of Christ. The fourth movement features segments of the earlier chorale cast against a melody heard in the strings. Then a recitative for baritone picture the unity of Christ, the bridegroom, with his “chosen bride” leads to another love duet for the soul (soprano) and Christ (baritone), but this time with oboe accompaniment. It closes with the entire choir singing the third verse of the chorale, but this time the high pitch of the melody is doubled by a violino piccolo an octave higher, representing the bliss of the “heavenly Jerusalem.”

On the Theology of Death

posted Nov 6, 2017, 4:14 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Nov 6, 2017, 4:15 PM ]

Celebrating All Saints and All Soul’s Days this week—two liturgies rooted in the belief that life is changed, not ended, with death—I ran across the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner’s essay On the Theology of Death and wanted to share this excerpt:

“The great and sad mistake of many people—among them even pious persons—is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. Where are they? In darkness? Oh no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed on our eyes full with tears. Oh, infinite consolation!

Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent, but living near to us, transfigured: having lost, in their glorious change, no delicacy of their souls, no tenderness of their hearts, no especial preference in their affection. On the contrary, they have, in depth and in fervor of devotion, grown large, a hundredfold.

Death is, for the good, a translation into light, into power, into love. Those who on earth were only ordinary Christians become perfect.”

And yet, people who mourn naturally need human consolation. Our Resurrection Choir provides a warm and caring liturgical presence that goes a long way in helping grieving families. Besides singing, it provides leadership in the spoken responses of the Mass, which is especially helpful to those who might not be familiar with Catholic liturgy. If you're free mornings, consider joining us. There are no rehearsals, so it’s ideal if your schedule is limited but you still want to be part of a parish ministry.

Carmina Burana & Chichester Pslams

posted Nov 1, 2017, 9:55 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Nov 1, 2017, 9:55 AM ]

This Friday, November 3
rd, I’m singing Carmina Burana with the National Chorale at Lincoln Center. Still the most popular secular choral work of the 21st century, the original Latin, German and French manuscript is a collection of several hundred poems with topics still relevant today: the fickleness of fortune and wealth; the heightened moods springtime evokes; and the pleasure and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust. Written in the 11th – 13th centuries by traveling students and ex-monks that had left their studies to pursue life’s pleasures, it remained undiscovered in a Bavarian Benedictine monastery until 1803. In the mid-1930’s, composer Carl Orff set 24 of these poems to music for chorus, soloists, orchestra or two pianos, and 21 percussion instruments! The movement that opens and closes the piece, Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi (“O Fortuna”) has been widely used in films; television; commercials and by sports teams.

Also on the program is Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein. Popular ever since the composer himself conducted its sold-out world premiere at Philharmonic Hall in 1965, it presents a unique blend of Biblical Hebrew verse and Christian choral singing tradition; a musical depiction of the composer’s hope for brotherhood and peace in Israel during a turbulent time in the young country’s history. Each of its three movements contains one complete Psalm plus excerpts from another. It's tuneful and tonal, featuring modal melodies and unusual meters, jazzy and contemporary yet accessible. Bernstein himself characterized it as “popular in feeling,” with “an old-fashioned sweetness along with its more violent moments.”

To purchase tickets to hear these two masterpieces, call (212) 333-5333 or visit nationalchorale.com.

Uncommon Sense

posted Oct 22, 2017, 11:00 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Oct 22, 2017, 11:01 AM ]

The Sheen Center presents the New York premiere of Tectonic Theater Project’s Uncommon Sense, a new play about living on the autism spectrum. From the company that created The Laramie Project and 33 Variations, and inspired by interviews with real people living on the spectrum, this multimedia play reveals our universal challenges with “difference,” our desire to connect, and the lengths we will go for the people we love.

It runs for five weeks from October 25 to November 26.

November 11 & 19 will be Relaxed Performances, with slight modifications to technical elements, such as light and sound, to make the performance more comfortable for individuals with sensory sensitivities. But Tectonic and The Sheen Center welcome audience members of all abilities to all performances. At no point will anyone be shushed or asked to leave due to noises, movements or behaviors related to a cognitive or developmental disability.

There will be talkbacks after matinee performances on November 4, 11, 18 & 25 and a special panel discussion after the November 5
th performance entitled: Autism and Faith: Animating Hope. November 16th will be an ASL Interpreted Performance. For more information, visit the Uncommon Sense Resources page at SheenCenter.org.

Immaculate Mary

posted Oct 14, 2017, 1:15 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Oct 14, 2017, 1:16 PM ]

Also called "Immaculate Mother" and in France "Ô Vierge Marie", this popular Marian hymn is known as the "Lourdes Hymn". It was there in 1858 that 14-year old Bernadette Soubirous saw seventeen apparitions of a “lady” who ultimately revealed herself as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.

First sung in 1873 by pilgrims visiting the site of these apparitions, the melody is a traditional tune from the French Pyrenees, the range of mountains forming a border between France and Spain and separating the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe. Its popularity with the pilgrims led it to become known as

Its lyrics have been attributed to Abbe Jean Gaignet, a priest and seminary director in Luçon. While no one knows who wrote the original 8 verses, he expanded it to 120 verses. Abbreviated today down to 3 or 4, the verses provide a message of hope, comfort and faith.

In the Philippines, a version sung at novenas honoring Our Lady of Perpetual Help has a different set of lyrics:

Immaculate Mother, to you do we plead. 
To ask God, our Father, for help in our need. 

Though different cultures fit the words to the tune differently, causing some timing variations in the chorus, none is considered more correct than another.

Music from Good Shepherd

posted Oct 12, 2017, 7:20 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Oct 12, 2017, 7:21 AM ]

Since 1996, Good Shepherd Catholic Church has opened its doors to New York's most talented musicians, giving them the opportunity to perform before appreciative audiences. "Music from Good Shepherd" has now entered its 21st season of free Sunday evening recitals!

The series began October 1
st and continues today with clarinetist Thomas Piercy. Next week, Joe Brent plays mandolin, followed on the 29th with Brooklyn Baroque, a period-instrument ensemble. (Since the way musical instruments are manufactured has changed so much over the last few centuries, period-instruments are made the way they used to be, so that older music can sound how it did when it was first composed.)

November brings guitarist Daniel Lippel; the Tanguera Tango Ensemble; and The McCarron Bros. Jazz Quartet, with Suzanne Mueller on cello. It concludes on the 26
th with Novelette 13, a flute and piano duo.

December 3
rd is the voice and guitar ensemble Duo Cantabile. The Chancel Choir and the Orchestra of Good Shepherd Church then culminate the series on December 10th with their annual presentation of G. F. Handel’s oratorio Messiah.

All the recitals begin at 6:00
PM. You’re invited to hear this wonderful tradition of chamber music-making in the community of Marine Park. While admission is free and open to the public, voluntary donations for the performers are encouraged. “This series has become a cultural treasure for the southern end of Brooklyn,” said Michael Fontana, the music director.

Learn to read music and play hand chimes!

posted Oct 4, 2017, 8:26 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Oct 4, 2017, 8:26 AM ]

Would you enjoy dusting off your music reading skills? Or learn to read treble clef music? Statistics prove that participating in a group music ensemble can raise a student’s IQ and increase their ability to think and reason; eventually raising their SAT scores. And for people of any age, joining any ensemble builds a community of friendships. So if you don’t want to sing, why not try out one of our handbell rehearsals?

cuori BELLissimi is our hand-chime choir that plays sometimes at Mass; is heard "carol-ring" in December and rings at our Taize Stations of the Cross. 45-minute rehearsals are conveniently scheduled on the 2
nd & 4th Sundays of the month at 10:00 AM down in the Marian Center, in between our two morning Masses.

cuoricini BELLissimi is for beginning ringers! Open to anyone in 3
rd grade or older, this group meets on Wednesdays at 3:30 PM down in the Marian Center. At the end of each rehearsal, we’ll pause so the ringers can enjoy a snack, then we’ll walk over to Brooklyn Prospect Charter School for Faith Formation classes. But even though I’ve conveniently scheduled it between school and religious education, it’s not a baby-sitting service! Students should want to learn basic music notation and proper ringing technique!

So if you know anyone who might be interested, contact me. Better yet, plan on ringing with them! This is something the whole family can do together!

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