About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark is the Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. His compositions have been performed worldwide.
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Using the shoddiest, sleaziest material we have for the purpose of glorifying God is not very sound theology or even very good common sense. […] (In general, when you see a diminished seventh chord in a hymn, run.) And these chords are usually used in bad hymns in precisely the same order in which they occur in “Sweet Adeline.”
— Paul Hume (1956)

Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea
published 30 May 2014 by Richard J. Clark

UITE SIMPLY PUT, to meet composer, conductor, and organist Michael Olbash is to encounter a gentleman at ease in the modern world, a man both unassuming and understated in gesture and words. Only in time does he reveal the depth and breadth of his talent, intellect, personality, and great humor. (His modest comportment requires this long and drawn out revelation; his actions speak with concise clarity.) One discovers he is a man of enormous personality, for Michael is extraordinarily passionate about God, his family, and the liturgy.

It is no wonder that from such a man comes a mass setting of both unassuming stature and simplicity, but yet carries the weight of the sacred mysteries in its powerful melodic gestures and harmonic foundations. Chant melody and harmony flow without the listener consciously recognizing their natural union; both uphold the sacred text in the natural order of prayer.

DOWNLOAD Complete Score:
PDF • Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea (for Schola, Organ)
For transpositions or congregation inserts Click here to contact Michael Olbash via Email.

Its origins are quite notable on three fronts: It was composed to be performed by the Blackstone Valley Catholic Youth Choir, a group Olbash founded dedicated to teaching children Gregorian Chant. Secondly, it was composed in 2010, dedicated to His Eminence Seán Cardinal O’Malley on the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Thirdly, it was premiered at the New Music session at the 2010 CMAA colloquium at Duquesne.

Very intentional with the structure of the melody and the work’s liturgical functionality, Olbash indicates the following:

Each movement intentionally uses a “gathering tone” in the style of Dr. Theodore Marier.
Each invocation of the Kyrie is progressively longer, in imitation of the Gregorian style.
The Gloria, in addition to borrowing from “Ave Maris Stella,” has three similar “peaks” where short series (i.e. we praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you) sort of “ramp up” to a climax (“we give you thanks for your great glory”). The other peaks are “you are seated” and “you alone”. There is also a sneaky little use of the opening of the Ave Maria chant at the words “for you alone.” The two iterations of the Lord’s Name are also both designed to allow for a stretching of tempo for congregations who have a custom of bowing, cresc. (or dim.) on the Lord’s Name, etc.
The score is published in a key friendly for most congregations; however, the sound clips are a step higher so that they would be most suitable for children’s voices.

Listen here to the Gloria recorded at St. Paul’s in Harvard Square with none other than John Robinson on organ.

Each movement is unique, based on different melodic elements; yet there is continuity and unity. Furthermore, each movement naturally fits within the proper shape of the liturgy, something Michael understands quite well. A wonderful example is the recording of the Preface and Sanctus. Of this Michael writes:

“The Sanctus, based on the preface tone, is an hommage to the simple English chant settings of the Sanctus by Theodore Marier found in his landmark hymnal, “Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs.”

Listen here to the Preface and Sanctus. The recording features the dialogue and preface for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Revel in the relationship between the two, flowing not simply as separate sections, but a natural progression revealing the organic unity of the liturgy:

ASS IN HONOR OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, STAR OF THE SEA is a true gem for any parish and schola. It possesses unity, continuity, and balance. There is enough simplicity to be accessible, yet filled with artistic depth and joyful surprises to maintain interest. This is a work that bears repetition. Like Mr. Olbash’s personality, this setting will reveal new elements of prayer with each use. It bears the mandate of Pope Saint Pius X that music for the liturgy be Sacred, Beautiful, and Universal.

The beautiful recordings above are featured on the Blackstone Valley Catholic Youth Choir recording Clothed with the Sun — Music for the Solemnities of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. To buy the CD click here.

Please pray for the good works of Michael and many like him who are dedicated to serving the Church. Such prayer and joy these children bring to the liturgy and to our lives!