Mary’s willingness to surrender to God’s will and become the Mother of our Saviour makes her a model of faith for us all. More than that, by God’s Grace, she is our Mother too, always leading us to her Son.
Given our devotion to Mary, it comes as no surprise that there is an abundance of Marian Solemnities, Feasts of Our Lady and (optional) memorials of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our liturgical calendar. We also have May, which considered the “month of Mary“, traditionally marked by beautiful, flower-strewn Marian processions. And October, which is regarded as the “month of the Rosary”.
Some of the dates that we are perhaps most familiar with include:
- January 1 – Mary, Mother of God
- February 11 – Our Lady of Lourdes
- March 25 – The Annunciation of the Lord
- May 13 – Our Lady of Fatima
- May 31 – The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- June – Immaculate Heart of Mary
- August 15 – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- September 8 – The Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- September 24 – Our Lady of Walsingham
- October 7 – Our Lady of the Rosary
- December 8 – The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
There are many other memorials marking the various titles given to Mary. We’ve got Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of Sorrows, Our Lady Refuge of Sinners … You get the idea.
Most of these wonderful feasts can find us relying on a small selection of (fairly old-school) Marian Hymns. Here’s a selection of seven of our favourite contemporary Marian Songs for you to throw into the mix: (in alphabetical order)
1. Blessed One (Aaron Thompson)
We love this song not only for it’s accessible melody, but for the richness of the text. Each of the double couplet verses helps to reflect on Mary’s role in the story of our salvation and her place in the life of the church, while also remaining somehow Christ-centred.LISTEN: Blessed One (sample)
2. Calypso Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
This setting of the Litany of Loreto harks back to Jo Boyce’s youth in Trinidad & Tobago (hence the Calypso rhythm). The joyful refrain – “My Soul Magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices” – comes from the Magnificat, of course. The litany-style verses makes it very accessible to a congregation.
We’ve had requests to record and publish our version of this litany for years. It is on the list for a project that we begin in 2017. Meanwhile, though, you’ll need to track down a copy of the 1980 edition of the Caribbean Hymnal.
Below you can hear the children of St Thomas More Primary School, singing their rendition of this joyful litany.LISTEN: Calypso Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (sample)
3. Hail Mary by Chris Rolinson
This setting of the Hail Mary is from our Christmas album The Promise. The first part of this prayer comes directly from the words of the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to Mary at the Annunciation. The sensitive paraphrasing of the familiar text highlights Mary’s role the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation.
4. Hail Mary by Mike Stanley
You can’t really have too many settings of the Hail Mary in your repertoire. This setting by Mike Stanley, from the CD Dewfall, was written during at time of illness. The Celtic lilt of the melody really captures the essence of this great petition for the intercession of Our Lady. The text of the prayer hasn’t been paraphrased for this setting and it is perhaps more accessible for congregational singing than the Rolinson setting.LISTEN: Hail Mary by Mike Stanley (sample)
5. Magnificat by Jo Boyce
There are many beautiful settings of Mary’s great song of praise, but this one by our own Jo Boyce is a firm favourite for many. The worshipful refrain is uplifting and moving in equal measure. Although the syncopated melody can make it a bit of a challenge for a congregation at first – it’s worth the effort when they are final able to make this great song of praise their own.
6. Mary of Gladness by Dan Callow
This song is a beautiful paraphrase of the English translation of the Salve Regina, focusing not only on Mary as Queen of Heaven but as “Mother of Mercy”. Dan was inspired to write this piece following his first experience being on the music team for our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Since then, this beautiful song has echoed across the domain during the torchlight procession on many occasions.
7. O Marie by Mike Stanley
This evocative ballad reflects on the key moments of Mary’s journey as the first disciple. From the Annunciation to walking beside on the Jesus on the road to Calvary and witnessing the brutality of the Crucifixion, each verse reminding us of Mary’s constant faithfulness to “let it be done according to God’s word“.LISTEN: O Marie by Mike Stanley (sample)
8. Salve Regina
This is a traditional Marian anthiphon, so we haven’t really counted in our shortlist of contemporary Marian songs. But we didn’t want to leave it out. The version on Age to Age Vol. 1 – Songs for A Pilgrim People features a heartfelt vocal by Mike Stanley and the evocatively plaintive sound of solo soprano saxophone. This contemporary interpretation may not be for plainchant purists. For us, though, it’s a way of building a bridge for those who may not otherwise encounter these treasures of our tradition.
Any other ideas?
We’d love to hear from you if you already use these songs or If you have any other suggestions to share. It’s good to expand the repertoire of songs that help us to express and deepen our devotion to our Blessed Mother.
We’d love to hear about them in the comments below.