“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.


posted May 22, 2017, 11:07 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated May 22, 2017, 11:07 AM ]

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal calls for silence at various times during the liturgy. This should be a purposeful time of silent reflection, when we focus on the readings or another action of the liturgy. It should not be an uncomfortable time of wondering why nothing is happening. We need to be active during those times of silence. They are opportunities for our interior reflection and prayers. Let us not waste them.

Silence also plays an important role in music, being one of its main components, and “the birthplace of any sound”. French mime Marcel Marceau once said “Music and silence combine strongly because music is done with silence, and silence is full of music.”

Sometimes it’s the space between the notes that makes all the difference to a piece of music. A few beats of silence can raise our expectation of what is about to come, creating anticipation. In terms of tension and release, silence can release tension when it follows a phrase, but it also builds tension as we await the next phrase. It’s a tool that enables us to create ‘pockets of emotions’ to give space and reflect on what we’ve heard or are performing, allowing us to easily shift our attention between one section of a song and another, and giving us time to remember what we’ve just sung or heard, making a melody easier to learn.

In a couple weeks for Pentecost, we’ll sing “Sacred Silence.” In the Oregon Catholic Press blog, its composer Tom Booth says “An old theology professor once said that the study of theology should lead us to our knees in silence.” He hopes his song should lead to just that. I hope many of our hymns do...

Regina Caeli

posted May 14, 2017, 11:36 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated May 14, 2017, 11:36 AM ]

The Regina Caeli is one of four seasonal Marian antiphons, sung after night prayer. It is said throughout Eastertide, (from Easter Day through Pentecost) and is also said in place of the Angelus during this time.

While its authorship is unknown, Franciscans have been chanting it since at least the 12
th century. An ancient legend has it that in the spring of 596 a pestilence was ravaging Rome. So Easter morning St. Gregory the Great led a procession to pray that it stop. Holding in his hand the icon of our Lady said to have been painted by St. Luke, he suddenly heard voices from above chanting the first three lines. Enraptured with the angelic singing, the astonished Pope replied in a loud voice: “Ora pro nobis Deum. Alleluia!” At that moment an angel appeared in a glorious light, sheathed the sword of pestilence in its scabbard, and from that day the pestilence ceased.

O Queen of heaven, be joyful, alleluia, 
For he whom you have humbly borne for us, alleluia, 
Has arisen, as he promised, alleluia, 
Offer now our prayer to God, alleluia. 

The version we sing is known as “simple plainsong”, meaning it’s a unison, unaccompanied melodic line in a free rhythm. There’s also an “ornate” form of the chant, and by the 16
th century many composers were setting this text for choirs. Jean-Baptiste Lully, who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France, set it as a motet in 1684. A young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed three settings of it between 1771 and 1779 for use at the Salzburg Cathedral. In the early 1860’s, Johannes Brahms composed a version for the women’s chorus in Hamburg.

Christ, the Sheep Gate

posted May 7, 2017, 10:51 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated May 7, 2017, 10:52 AM ]

This week, the liturgical music journal GIA Quarterly writes:

“This Sunday, let us enter into the mystery of Christ, the Sheep Gate.

Our journey of faith begins and ends with a door. When parents bring their child to be baptized, we meet them at the church doors. At the end of a Christian’s life, we welcome the body at the same doors in its final Passover into eternal life. The door is the thin space between life and death, the sign of the promise of life if only we enter it."

Since Christ is the door through whom we have been saved,
     Let every door remind us to be a sign of life for all we meet on the other side.
Let the doors of our hearts be the place where those who hunger and thirst
     are filled and where all creation is clothed in glory and sheltered safe from harm.
At the doors wherever Christians gather,
     may the sick find healing,
     prisoners know freedom,
     and our beloved dead be greeted by the saints.
And from all the passageways of our daily lives, send us, Lord,
     to share faith where there is doubt,
     to be light where there is darkness,
     to embrace the sinner,
     comfort the afflicted, offer forgiveness,
     and show patience and kindness to all.

Young Heartists!

posted May 3, 2017, 8:22 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated May 3, 2017, 8:24 AM ]

This Sunday, April 30
th at 2:00 PM, Immaculate Heart of Mary will present the Inaugural “Young Heartists” recital! Come here this budding talent!

Like #young@heart, which showcases high school and college students along with young adults beginning their professional careers; this event here in the “Heart” of Brooklyn features our even younger musicians. Elementary and middle school students have the opportunity to share their aspiring pursuits with us

Kimberly Lebron and Marilyn Lopez will play trumpet and saxophone, respectively, on variations of themes by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig von Beethoven, a march by John Philip Sousa, and Taio Cruz’ dance-pop hit “Dynamite.” On the viola, Hannah Dono will play the Shaker melody that's become known as “Simple Gifts,” then she’ll switch to cello for “Alla Hornpipe” from George Frideric Handel’s Water Music. Agnieszka Wysocki is going to sing “His Glory Appears” by the Contemporary Christian worship band Hillsong United. Flutist Adam Bueno will play the pastoral “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from Christoff Willibald Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice.

In Renewing the Vision: A Framework for Catholic Youth Ministry, the U.S. Bishops pointed out youth ministry is more than programs and events. It is “the response of the Christian community to the needs of young people, and the sharing of the unique gifts of youth with the larger community.” Make sure ours is a parish that supports the gracious endeavors of these talented young people! Attend this short recital and bring a friend! It's a great opportunity to catch a rising star, and say you heard them when their career was just beginning!

Easter in classical music...

posted Apr 18, 2017, 3:27 PM by Steven Vaughan

Easter has inspired some great works in classical music. Probably the best known is George Frederic Handel's The Messiah, with its "Hallelujah” chorus.

In addition to his St. Matthew's Passion, Johann Sebastian Bach also composed an Easter Oratorio. He revised it over 20 years, from 1725 - 1746; growing out of a single cantata written for a Lutheran church service into a semi-staged musical drama. This optimistic work skips the Crucifixion and begins after the death of Christ, with the discovery of Jesus’s empty grave in a joyous, trill-riddled opening.

The opening of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s simple, resourceful Stabat Mater – a hymn focusing on the pain of Mary watching her son die – puts two singers in dissonance over a small chamber orchestra, creating the eerie feeling of voices crying out. The 26-year-old Italian composer was suffering from tuberculosis at the time he composed this in 1736, and died just a few weeks later.

In 1783, Joseph Haydn was commissioned to compose orchestral music to punctuate the seven readings during the Easter service. A few years later he changed this music into a string quartet; and then he eventually dramatized it into an oratorio called The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross.

While attending the funeral of his friend, the conductor Hans von Bülow in 1894, Gustav Mahler got the idea to turn a short piece he had written six years earlier into a longer work about the nature of the afterlife. And the popularity of his Symphony No 2, “Resurrection”, established him as a major composer.

St. Matthew Passion

posted Apr 9, 2017, 11:38 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Apr 9, 2017, 11:38 AM ]

By the Middle Ages, churches had begun observing Holy Week by retelling the story of the crucifixion in music instead of reading it as we do today. At first scripture was set to simple chant melodies—but by the Baroque period, the music and numbers of musicians became increasingly ambitious. So for Good Friday services in 1727 at St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig, Johann Sebastian Bach composed this sacred oratorio for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra based on chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew. Its original Latin title Passio Domini nostri J.C. secundum Evangelistam Matthæum translates to "The Passion of our Lord J[esus] C[hrist] according to the Evangelist Matthew".

Bach then revised it for Good Friday, 1736, into the version that has survived. It’s divided into two parts, originally performed before and after the sermon of the Good Friday service. Highlights of the first part include the last supper and the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the second part, the music turns softer and more somber — signaling the inevitability of the story — as it depicts the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, concluding with Joseph of Arimathea asking Pilate for the corpse for burial, while officials remind Pilate of the talk of resurrection and ask for guards and a seal for the grave to prevent fraud.

The vocal part of Jesus is distinguished from the others by an original effect for that time: his solos are always accompanied by a group of string instruments, endowing his role with what is often described as a ‘halo’. It is only when he is on the cross and declares ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ that this effect is removed.

There are numerous English recordings and videos online if you find you want to listen to some of it…

Pope Francis on Sacred Music...

posted Apr 2, 2017, 11:04 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Apr 2, 2017, 11:05 AM ]

On Saturday, March 4, Pope Francis addressed participants in the International Conference on Sacred Music. He referenced an Instruction from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, or Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with the people participating in it. Indeed, through this form, prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem” (n. 5).

But to achieve the “active and conscious participation” this document calls for, he explains how “a two-fold mission emerges which the Church is called to follow. On the one hand it calls for safeguarding the rich patrimony inherited from the past. On the other hand, it is necessary to ensure that sacred music be fully “inculturated” in the artistic and musical language of the current time; able to translate the Word of God into song, sound and harmony capable of making the hearts of our contemporaries resonate, and stirs openness and full participation in the mystery being celebrated.”

In other words, both traditional and contemporary music have their place in worship, as long as they inspire you to be more reverent, and to sing more...

Calling all talented students!

posted Mar 13, 2017, 8:32 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Mar 13, 2017, 8:33 AM ]

Next month, on Sunday, April 30
th at 2:00 PM, Immaculate Heart of Mary will present the Inaugural “Young Heartists” recital and exhibit!

Like #young@heart, which showcases high school and college students along with young adults beginning their professional careers; this event here in the “Heart” of Brooklyn demonstrates the talents of our even younger musicians and artists. Elementary and middle school students from our parish; our Faith Formation program; our Scout troops; St. Joseph the Worker Academy and Brooklyn Prospect Charter School who study music or art have the opportunity to share their aspiring pursuits with us!

Providing our young friends a place to exhibit their talents does more than just allow them to share their unique gifts with us; it increases their confidence both while performing and in everyday life, it offers the opportunity to make like-minded friends, it supplies a sense of achievement and boosts self-esteem, and it encourages goal-setting and a “reach for the stars” philosophy. So help encourage some rising stars, and someday you can say you helped discover them when their careers were just beginning!

If you know an extremely talented young musician or artist who is studying either music or art and might be interested in joining us, make sure they contact me! I have some very simple paperwork for to fill out!

Gracious God

posted Mar 8, 2017, 12:02 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Mar 8, 2017, 12:02 PM ]

Today’s Liturgy, composer Jesse Manibusan reflects “I wanted to write a song that might convey the mystery of the Incarnation, God made human; where God’s people, in every age, take their turn at being a living sign of God’s mercy, grace, and generosity in the world; not just a declaration of faith, but also a manifestation. My beloved mentor, the late great, Father Gregory David Comella, had always emphasized that God’s graciousness is God’s mercy, not merely an abstract theological notion, but a tangible, powerful, and transforming gift that had to be given away in our everyday living.

Verses one and two easily reflect the Lenten theme, [Lead us, Lord, into the desert; lead us through the wilderness...] but the subsequent verses convey loving God by loving our neighbor, that is, everyone. To be as gracious as our God is gracious. The first half of the chorus conveys God’s gift, ‘Redeeming Love, you give your life away.’ The second half reflects our response, ‘Receiving Love, we give our lives away!’

Another mentor of mine, Father Don Osuna, once reminded a group of liturgical musicians at an NPM Convention, a lifetime ago, “We venerate the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance during Adoration. At Communion during Mass, when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, are we, not living monstrances?’ I believe his point was don’t just pray and sing to, about, and for Jesus, but be Jesus in the world; in our words and deeds. Serve, sacrifice, welcome all who come our way, and in doing so, we reflect God’s gracious mercy and love.”


posted Mar 8, 2017, 11:57 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Mar 8, 2017, 11:57 AM ]

"Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" is a song written by Hank Williams and Moon Mullican, first released in July, 1952. It spawned numerous cover versions by Jo Stafford; Brenda Lee; George Jones; Fats Domino; Elvis Presley; Conway Twitty; Jerry Lee Lewis; The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; The Carpenters; The Meters; Harry Connick, Jr. and most recently, Garth Brooks. In it, the singer poles a pirogue (a small boat) down the bayou to attend a party with ma cher amio, (his girlfriend) Yvonne, where they have Cajun cuisine such as jambalaya, crawfish pie, filé gumbo, and drink liquor from fruit jars.

The dish jambalaya consists of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. Traditionally, the meat includes a smoked sausage such as andouille, along with pork, chicken, crawfish, or shrimp. Since the Louisiana territory was occupied by both the Spanish and the French, it has its origins in two dishes from their cuisines: paella (native to Valencia) and jambalaia (native to Provence). The presence or absence of tomatoes distinguishes Creole jambalaya (with tomatoes) from Cajun jambalaya, which contains no tomatoes and is more characteristic of rural Louisiana.

Jambalaya is differentiated from gumbo and étouffée by the way in which rice is included. In these latter dishes, white long grain rice is cooked separately and is served in a scoop over or under the main dish. But in jambalaya, the white rice is added to the stock and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks. It's considered by most Louisiana cooks to be a simple-to-prepare dish; gumbos, étouffées, and creoles are regarded more difficult to perfect.

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