“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.

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!

Lead Me, Guide Me

posted Sep 24, 2017, 11:53 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Sep 24, 2017, 11:53 AM ]

Born in Brookfield, Missouri in 1923, Doris M. Akers started learning to play the piano at age six, and wrote her first song “Keep the Fire Burning In Me” when she was only ten years old. She went on to compose more than three hundred gospel songs and hymns, including “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit In This Place”.

In 1945 she moved to Los Angeles and befriended Mahalia Jackson. She also became director of the Sky Pilot Choir, an integrated choir whose fresh, modern arrangements of traditional spirituals got them featured on television shows and radio broadcasts across the country.

She wrote both the text and the tune of “Lead Me, Guide Me” in 1953 in Oakland, CA. Like many of the psalms, its text pours out in prayer the yearning of the individual for an intimate walk with God, who is asked to lead, guide, and protect the believer. The deeply personal stanzas emphasize that divine guidance is essential because of our lack of strength, our blindness, and Satan's temptations. Only God can lead us on the narrow path and through all the complexities and challenges of earthly life.

She was affectionately known as "Miss Gospel Music" because she was so admired and respected by everyone in the music industry, working with many of the pioneers of the Golden Age of Gospel Music. She mastered every aspect of gospel music including vocals, keyboards, choir directing, arranging, composing and publishing! Many of her compositions sold millions for other artists and evangelists, including Elvis Presley’s famous recording of “Lead Me, Guide Me”. In 1992, she was honored by the Smithsonian Institution as "the foremost black gospel songwriter in the United States", and was posthumously inducted to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Why don't we sing more patriotic songs?

posted Sep 10, 2017, 12:21 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Sep 10, 2017, 12:21 PM ]

We all love patriotic songs; being able to ask God to bless our country, being able to give thanks for our country, and, “to sing songs we know!”

Fr. James Martin, SJ writes in America: The Jesuit Review this summer, “Mt. 10:37-42 has Jesus telling his followers, with the uncompromising language he often used, that nothing comes before God. Everything else is secondary—‘Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.’ Surely we should be good Americans and love and honor our country. But during the Mass, shouldn’t our hearts be pledged to something, or someone else? Some patriotic songs subordinate the Sacrifice of the Mass to the United States.”

John Baldovin, S.J., professor of historical and liturgical theology at Boston College adds “Frankly, I do not favor patriotic songs at liturgy that are addressed to the nation and not to God. There are patriotic hymns, e.g., ‘God of Our Fathers,’ ‘Eternal Father, Strong to Save,’ ‘This is My Song’—all of these are addressed to God.”

Thomas Scirghi, S.J., who teaches sacramental theology at Fordham University, agrees: “Patriotic songs should be sung for gatherings which celebrate the nation. For liturgy, though, we should cull the hymnal for appropriate festive hymns, to celebrate that we are ‘one nation under God.’ Indeed, in liturgy, to whom are we singing: to God or to ourselves?”

I do try to sing most of the patriotic hymns found in our Breaking Bread. And on American holiday weekends, I play others as a postlude, after the recessional hymn, and some people have stayed and sung along. Have you?


posted Sep 1, 2017, 8:55 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Sep 1, 2017, 8:55 AM ]

Each week on Page 3 of our bulletin is a brief insert called “Liturgical Bits & Bytes” which explains some aspect of worship; catechizing us about the liturgy and increasing our understanding and participation. A few weeks ago it was about “Witnessing” and it said:

“As we participate in the prayers, songs, acclamations, and responses, we witness to our faith and thereby strengthen the faith of those around us. Most notable is the profession of faith, the Creed. This should be recited in full voice and conviction as a witness to others. Hearty singing of the Gloria and Eucharistic acclamations is also a strong witness, as is any whole-hearted participation in the prayers and songs.”

The Catholic Dictionary defines “witness” as “the idea of a religious experience to which a believer testifies by his life, words, and actions, and thus gives inspiration and example to others by his testimony. Implicit in Christian witness is also the element of courage in giving testimony, either because others are not favorably disposed or because they are openly hostile to the message of faith being proposed.”

In a homily he gave in 2014, Pope Francis said, “Christianity is not a school of ideas or a collection of beautiful temples and lovely art; it is a living people who follow Jesus and give witness to him.”

The two most important elements of giving witness seem to be conviction and courage. If you’re having trouble singing with these, stop focusing on the intellectual struggle about your “singing”. Clear the air of negative feelings. Overcome your fear of vulnerability by engrossing your thought and energy in the prayer being sung. Work on expressing the emotional mode of that prayer, instead of merely mumbling along. And remember that creating silence is as important as creating sounds.

Sing, and speak, with confidence and courage. Witness!

Why chant?

posted Aug 19, 2017, 12:39 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Aug 19, 2017, 12:39 PM ]

For the past month, we’ve been chanting the Ordinary, the chants that are constant and don’t change from Mass to Mass. But why learn them?

In his 1903 motu proprio Inter Sollicitudines, St. Pius X wrote: “Special efforts are to be made to restore the use of chant by the people, so that the faithful may again take a more active part, as was the case in ancient times.” Chanting is easier than singing, so it should pose less of an obstacle to people who “don’t sing”, and allow more of us to participate.

Pope Pius XI says in his 1928 encyclical Divini Cultus: “Voices, in preference to instruments, ought to be heard in the church: the voices of the clergy, the choir, and the congregation; for no instrument, however perfect, can surpass the human voice in expressing human thought, especially when it is used by the mind to offer up prayer and praise to Almighty God… It is most important that when the faithful assist at the sacred ceremonies… they should not be merely detached and silent spectators, but, filled with a deep sense of the beauty of the Liturgy, they should sing. If this is done, then it will no longer happen that the people either make no answer at all to the public prayers … or at best utter the responses in a low and subdued manner.” It should be easier to add more personal vocal expressions and dynamics when chanting than when singing a composed melody.

In his 1955 encyclical Musicae Sacrae, The Venerable Pius XII added: “It is the duty of all those to whom Christ the Lord has entrusted the task of guarding and dispensing the Church’s riches to preserve this precious treasure of chant diligently and to impart it generously to the Christian people.” We need to pass on and teach sacred chants to ourselves and the next generation.

The conclusion we can learn from these and many more papal documents, is that “we the people” are repeatedly and directly asked to SING THE MASS. Are we?

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