Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

You may have noticed a subtle change in the music before mass during October. Our prelude has been different settings of the Hail Mary. Before saying more about the “what” allow me to share a bit on the “who” and “why.”

On September 1, 1883 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the upcoming October to Mary as the Queen of the Holy Rosary. In his encyclical “On Devotion to the Rosary” he exhorted the faithful to pray the rosary before mass. Over the next 15 years Leo XIII wrote ten more encyclicals on the rosary.

So, what is a setting? One way to explain this uses the analogy of an engagement ring where the stone is set into the ring. In this analogy the stone is the Hail Mary and the ring is the various musical compositions into which the prayer is set.

There are many, many settings of the Ave Maria.

Here are the ones we have used:

Ave-Maria Bach-Gounod
Gounod, an organist and choirmaster from Paris, wrote this setting during the mid-nineteenth Century. He “superimposed” his memorable melody on the famous “Prelude in C Major” written by Johann Sebastian Bach. (Those who have taken piano lessons may be familiar with Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier.)

Ave-Maria - Daniel Kantor
Daniel Kantor is a contemporary composer, musician and graphic designer.  He is also responsible for the naming and marketing of the well-known music publishing software: Finale. 

Here are the composers’ words on his setting of the Ave Maria:

“Growing up, I learned my father’s favorite prayer was the Hail Mary. I associate this prayer with him, and his upbringing on a small hard-working Minnesota farm. The stories I recall of Mary and Joseph, two humble people, resonate with this. So I crafted a setting of the Hail Mary that is reminiscent of a slow country waltz with an accessible refrain that any assembly can sing. This setting contrasts with the more formal Ave Maria’s so often used at weddings.”

Hail Mary-Gentle Woman - Carey Landry
This setting written in 1975 by the composer of “Abba, Father” and “Only A Shadow.” It is both simple in its melody and chord progression.  It is also easy to sing and well-loved by many.

Ave Maria - Franz Schubert
Arguably the post popular setting of the Ave Maria was not originally written for the prayer. Schubert wrote the melody for a secular poem published by Sir Walter Scott in 1810. At some point in time the words to the prayer were set into Schubert’s music.

Blessed to be at St. Mary’s another October,



I remember playing the music for the Rosary societies "Living Rosary" each October at my home church.  I can see the ladies, including my mom in their white blouses standing around the church in darkness.  Angela Failla would walk with a lit candle and light the taper for each member as they began their individual Hail Mary.  I could tell who some of them were just by their voice.


This past Sunday 3 children came forward after mass with their parents hoping to join the children’s choir.  Children grades 3-8 are invited to join.  For more information go to or E-mail me at .

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