“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.

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?

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

posted Aug 13, 2017, 1:35 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Aug 13, 2017, 1:35 PM ]

How do you express the inexpressible mystery of the Creator? How do you sing about the One who is ineffable — beyond all words? Rev. Walter Chalmers Smith attempted this in "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise."

Smith was a pastor in the Free Church of Scotland when he wrote this in 1867. Though he wrote many hymns, only a dozen have survived, and this is the only one still frequently sung.

Its central metaphor of light suggests the transcendence of this "invisible" one whose identity is obscured by brightness, yet our attention is called to the actions and attributes that give us some indication of who this being is. The first verse is based on I Timothy 1:17:

To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

In the second verse we sing God rules with justice, goodness and love; the third acknowledges the Creator’s nature as the source of all life; while the last reveals the Holy One is adored by angels — and suggests we should follow their example and render our praise.

The tune, ST. DENIO, is derived from a Welsh folk song "Can Mlynned i ‘nawr’" ("A Hundred Years from Now"). It was first arranged for use as a hymn tune in Canaidau y Cyssegr, 1839 (Hymns of the Sanctuary). This melody was then paired with Smith’s words in The English Hymnal of 1905-1906, edited by Gustav Theodore Holst. The tune title refers to St. Denis, the patron saint of France.

A Rightful Place

posted Jul 26, 2017, 12:33 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 26, 2017, 12:34 PM ]

In the current issue of
Today's Liturgy, (a quarterly publication for liturgy preparation) composer Steve Angrisano says “'A Rightful Place' is a special song for me. The text is based on a quote from Saint Augustine:

‘Let us live our lives so that all might see,
That our hearts are restless ‘till they rest in Thee’

The second line of the chorus,

‘Let us build your kingdom in truth and grace
so that all might know they have a rightful place’

was inspired by the scene of Pope Francis washing the feet of teenage prisoners on his first Holy Thursday.

I often say that neither Jesus nor Pope Francis are rule breakers, but they are indeed point makers! I am reminded of Jesus being urged by Jewish leaders to come sit with them. He was, after all, their invited guest. Instead, he sat with the sinners and prostitutes at a lower place and ultimately answered, ‘Well people do not need a physician, sick people do.’

That’s the challenge of our faith isn’t it? Not to simply satisfy ourselves in making beautiful liturgy, but also to be a people who, filled with the body of Christ, are inspired to walk out into the word and to BE the body of Christ.”

Together in your presence we came
to be one in spirt, in truth and name;
strengthened by the body of Christ,
taking up the call now to share your light
with all the world.

Come Join the Parade!

posted Jul 16, 2017, 10:33 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 16, 2017, 10:33 AM ]

This week, Immaculate Heart of Mary started our 11
th Annual Vacation Bible School — Maker Fun Factory! Its slogan is “Created by God; Built for a Purpose”. We’re exploring a world where curious people of all ages become hands-on inventors who discover we’re lovingly created by God.

One of the new songs we’re learning is “Wonderfully Made Parade”:

Come join the Wonderfully Made Parade 
Celebrate the awesome things that God has made 
God created me special, He made you special too 
We sing and pray and laugh and play 
Look at all the things that we can do...

So our Maker Fun Factory is building a parade, and we want to invite YOU to join us! So find your old baton, get out your uniform or costume, and come join the wonderfully made parade!

This Friday, July 21st, VBS will lead parishioners, staff and community members in a march from Brooklyn Prospect Charter School up Fort Hamilton Parkway to the front doors of our church! And after our brief parade, everyone is invited to join us on the grass behind the Blessed Mother Statue for some light refreshments.

If you can march with us, just call (718) 871-1310 ext. 10 or email ihmsylvia@IHMBrooklyn.org to confirm you’re participating. Then come to Brooklyn Prospect Charter School Friday morning, July 21st, between 10:30 – 10:40 AM. A “handler” will meet you to show you your place in the line-up and even march with you!

And if you don’t want to march but want to watch, we’re starting promptly at 11:00 AM. See you Friday!

Pray. Sing. Sleep. Repeat...

posted Jul 9, 2017, 1:08 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 9, 2017, 1:09 PM ]

Are you a workaholic? When you skip a meal or stay up late to finish something, are you really doing it because you want to be in control?

If we’re going to accept Jesus’ invitation today to come to him and rest, we must learn how to let go. In his book The Mystical Way in Everyday Life, Fr. Karl Rahner, SJ reminds us that “When sleeping, people surrender, let go, entrust themselves to the powers of their existence that they themselves did not create and cannot oversee. It is an act of innocence and of consenting to the elusive. If one approached sleep like that… then falling asleep could be seen as relating to the inner structure of prayer, which is equally a letting-go, an entrusting of one’s own inner conviction to the providence of God which one lovingly accepts.”

Trust God, and get some rest. You’ll be a better disciple. And you’ll sing better too, which will also make you a better disciple.

Lack of sleep is the worst thing for your singing voice. And ironically, some doctors say singing could be the key to a peaceful night's sleep. Otolaryngologists worked with vocal teachers at Exeter University to conduct research with 60 snorers and discovered that daily vocal exercises can strengthen weak throat and palate muscles which can cause snoring. By the end of the three month trial, the snoring and overall quality of sleep had significantly improved in the 30 who tried it compared to 30 others who didn't try the exercises.

God of Our Fathers

posted Jul 2, 2017, 11:11 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 2, 2017, 11:11 AM ]

This hymn’s origins can be traced back to 1876, when our country was celebrating the 100
th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Of all the patriotic songs written for this Centennial celebration, this hymn is the only one that is still regularly heard.

Daniel C. Roberts was born in Long Island in 1841, but went to college in Ohio, and served in the American Civil War assigned to the 84
th Ohio Volunteers. After the war, he was ordained a priest in the Presbyterian Episcopal Church and sent to the small rural town of Brandon, Vermont. He wrote this text asking God to continue to guide and protect us as He has done in the past for their local 4th of July celebration.

But a few years later, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church was commissioned to choose a hymn for the celebration in 1888 of the Centennial of the Adoption of the United States Constitution. So he sent “God of Our Fathers” in for their consideration. They liked it, and the organist of St. Thomas Church on 5
th Avenue here in New York City, George William Warren, composed a new tune for it called NATIONAL HYMN.

Because of its use in that national celebration, the hymn became widely known, and as new hymnals were published, they included it. It has been widely sung now for more than a century.

Come Join the Parade!

posted Jun 25, 2017, 1:21 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jun 25, 2017, 1:21 PM ]

This summer, Immaculate Heart of Mary presents our 11
th Annual Vacation Bible School — Maker Fun Factory! Its slogan is “Created by God; Built for a Purpose”. For anyone participating, we’ll explore a world where curious people of all ages become hands-on inventors who discover we’re lovingly created by God.

In keeping with the theme, we'll create our own fun arrangement of the traditional American spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands”. (Did you know that the popular 1957 British recording of this song by Laurie London is the only gospel song to hit #1 on a U.S. pop singles chart?) We’ll also build our own version of “Oh Happy Day”, an 18
th century hymn popularized by a 1960’s gospel recording, heard in movies such as Sister Act II or Big Momma’s House. And one of the new songs we’ll learn is “Wonderfully Made Parade”.

Come join the Wonderfully Made Parade 
Celebrate the awesome things that God has made 
God created me special, He made you special too 
We sing and pray and laugh and play 
Look at all the things that we can do 

And so our Maker Fun Factory is going to build a parade! And we need all the help we can get! We need to build floats, costumes, props, etc. And we’re hoping some of you can march with us in our parade on July 21st. So find your old baton, get out your uniform or costume, and come join the wonderfully made parade!

Students should register now for Maker Fun Factory, which happens July 10th – July 21st. For more information, pick up a registration form in the rectory, or email S. Mary Ann at ihmsma@ihmbrooklyn.org.

The Brooklyn Choral Sing-In

posted Jun 13, 2017, 9:10 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jun 13, 2017, 9:11 AM ]

Do you want to join singers from various Brooklyn choruses for an evening of choral singing? The fourth annual Brooklyn Choral Sing-In is this Wednesday, June 14th at 7:00 pm in All Saints' Church in Park Slope (7th and 7th). All singers and fans or choral music are welcome!

This massed choir event will feature the Grace Chorale of Brooklyn, the Park Slope Singers, the Brooklyn Philharmonia Chorus, the Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale and the Brooklyn Community Chorus. Did you know there were so many choirs in Brooklyn?

The Grace Chorale of Brooklyn is an 85-member chorus based in Brooklyn Heights, celebrating its 40th anniversary, while the Park Slope Singers is a congenial group of about 60 people celebrating their 25th!

The Brooklyn Philarmonia Chorus performs a wide variety of repertoire, and gave concerts prior to our Annual Lighting of Trees and Angels in '08 & '09, thanks to the efforts of Linda Gaglia, who is an 18-year alumnus and was their Treasurer for 14 years. I’ve been a featured soloist with them, and another parishioner, Mary Czajkowski, has been a member for over 20 years, as well as their Secretary.

I've also sung with the Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale, a group that continues a more than 20-year-old tradition of choral music. And the Brooklyn Community Chorus (BCC) is open to all singers from diverse backgrounds, ages, and musical experiences, dedicated to exploring a variety of musical styles.

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