About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark has served since 1989 as Music Director and Organist at Saint Cecilia Church in Boston, Massachusetts. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. For the Archdiocese of Boston, he directed the Office of Divine Worship Saint Cecilia Schola. His compositions have been performed on four continents.
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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)

New Organ Work • Madonna & Child
published 24 June 2016 by Richard J. Clark

HE CREATIVE PROCESS often takes time to evolve, always in surprising ways, and sometimes takes on a life of its own even after a premiere.

I was honored to be part of a wonderful concert with so many amazing musicians. It happened to be on Father’s Day. With that in mind, I just had to compose something for my two-month-old daughter. Composing variations on her name would have sufficed. But I could not shake the significant inclusion of variations on the Mode I Chant, Ave Maris Stella, which comprises much of the middle section of this work. Ave Maris Stella became its anchor—the grounding upon which the child’s theme could flourish.

The premiere was at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts on the 101-rank E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings Organ. At the premiere, the piece was titled for my daughter, “Variations on the Name Adeline Grace,. But so many after the concert asked me, “Wasn’t that Ave Maris Stella in there?” Yes, it was most assuredly there.

FTER A FEW DAYS, I have had a better understanding of what has transpired. It took me—the composer—to realize this is really a work about mother and child. There is the gentle cradling of the child in a mother’s lap. But there is also the heaviness in the child’s theme—a premonition of a Cross to bear. As Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 8:23)

Note the word Jesus uses: daily. This goes to our calling in life. We are all called to be a disciple of Jesus. It is the mother and father who nurture the child in the Faith, to be a true disciple of Jesus.

In the end, this work was perhaps equally inspired by my daughter and her extraordinary mother. What I did not initially understand, now makes sense as a musical portrait of Mary and Jesus. One can hear the heaviness, but also the lightness and comfort Jesus found in his own Mother, who is also our Mother. In both of them we find comfort. In Jesus we find salvation.

Recorded on the Smith & Gilbert Organ (1999) at Saint Cecilia Church, Boston, Massachusetts. Recording by Evan Landry Score available at RJC Cecilia Music.