“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.

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.

The Heavens Are Telling...

posted Jun 5, 2017, 12:45 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jun 5, 2017, 12:46 PM ]

This week I’ll be singing with the Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale and Community Orchestra as they present two performances of The Heavens Are Telling: Music of the Sublime. The first will be this Friday, June 9
th in Brooklyn Heights’ Church of the Assumption at 8:00 PM, and then it will be repeated on Sunday, June 11th at 4:00 PM in Park Slope's Congregation Beth Elohim.

The program is selections from sacred works, including parts of Bach’s last composition, the Mass in B minor, which has been widely hailed as one of the greatest compositions in musical history. We’ll also perform parts of Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor.

Fauré explained his own Requiem as, “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience.”

Like opera, an oratorio uses a choir, soloists and orchestra, however, it’s not staged, and the characters don’t interact. Mendelssohn’s Elijah depicts events in the life of the Old Testament prophet from books 1 Kings and 2 Kings.

And of course, as the title suggests, we’ll perform selections from Haydn’s oratorio The Creation, celebrating the creation of the world as described in the Book of Genesis. I hope you can celebrate with us!

Volunteer for Vacation Bible School

posted May 31, 2017, 12:45 PM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated May 31, 2017, 12:48 PM ]

Don’t you enjoy watching kids’ faces light up as they sing songs about their faith? Help us do that! This summer, from July 10
th to July 21st, Immaculate Heart of Mary presents our 11th Annual Vacation Bible School — Maker Fun Factory: Created by God, Built for a Purpose. We’ll explore a world where curious kids become hands-on inventors who discover they're lovingly crafted by God.

But Vacation Bible School (VBS) needs volunteers to make it work, not just in our music program, but in all our stations. We’re looking for adults and teenagers who are enthusiastic about working with children, patient and kind. Most volunteers don’t really have to prepare anything, you just show up each morning, and you’re home in time for lunch. What’s important is your willingness to be someone’s friend and helper; to draw others into singing and dancing as much as possible; and to encourage each other to a higher level of participation, both in VBS and in our liturgies.

Sharing with our children and reinforcing in ourselves the joy of music enhances the sung worship of our parish community. It also perpetuates the future of our parish and strengthens our “full and active participation”.

If you’ve helped with VBS before, how about recruiting a friend to join us? If you think you or anyone you know can give any time to VBS, please contact myself, Linda Gaglia or Sr. Mary Ann before the VIRTUS class on June 7
th. Remember, YOU make VBS work!


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…

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