Immaculate Mary

ave-maria-3000x3000In 2010, for a Marian celebration when William Picher hired 2 trumpets, strings, flute and timpani for a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, he asked me for an arrangement of Immaculate Mary. As this is a popular hymn for many Marian feasts, I eventually prepared a solo organ accompaniment version of the score. This reduced arrangement is included in their most recent CD of Marian Music: Ave Maria. It was always a pleasure to work with and write music for the Basilica Choir while I was in Orlando, and I am delighted that they continue to sing (and record) compositions and arrangements that I did for them.

Westminster Relocation

Dear President Dell’Ormo:

This month twenty-seven years ago, I received my acceptance letter to Westminster Choir College. After receiving my admissions offer, I completed no other undergraduate school applications. Westminster offered unique opportunities in choral and organ music that were unmatched by any other school. Before enrolling at Westminster, I can imagine how it might be possible to offer these educational opportunities on a campus like Rider. After completing my degree, I don’t believe the formation I received can be duplicated on the Lawrenceville campus. I am deeply saddened by the possibility of moving Westminster and urge you, the Board of Trustees, and all involved to keep Westminster in Princeton.

As a student during the merger with Rider, our largest fear was losing the Princeton campus. My understanding is that this question was explored at that time, and I have been delighted to see the support of the Princeton campus, especially the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center and renovation of the Playhouse. While I expect there are still renovations and upgrades to be made to the existing buildings on campus, it is hard for me to imagine that those costs would be higher than the construction of new facilities that would be required in a relocation to Lawrenceville.

When Westminster merged with Rider, we were told that Rider was one of the few educational institutions in the country that was operating in the black. I am sorry to hear that the school’s finances are no longer what they once were. I recognize the need to balance a budget, but when considering Westminster, I urge you to include goodwill in your accounting.

The value of Westminster lies not just in the buildings and campus, but in the people and community. The small size of the Westminster campus forces people into community. When I was a student, everyone knew everyone else on campus. This tight community persists even after graduation enabling Westminster students to connect with alumni even decades apart. I attended a larger school after Westminster, and even with its own extensive alumni network, the same value is not there.

We pay more for brand name items because of the reputation of the company. Business with high brand recognition are valued higher than equivalent businesses with no recognition. The programs offered by Westminster are not just a product that can be created at a different factory. To me, moving Westminster to Lawrenceville sounds like changing the formula for Coca-Cola. We know how well that turned out for them, but at least they had the option to change back.

To even consider moving Westminster from the Princeton campus damages the goodwill that Rider established in the years since the merger. If you need additional financial support, this is not the way to solicit the Westminster community.

Westminster does not just offer a program of study; it offers a community. The formation of that community is dependent upon a small campus. The persistence of these bonds across time represents a value that would be lost in any relocation. Until you go through studies at Westminster, this value may seem negligible, but I assure you that it is not. The small community and focused study offered by Westminster is why I came to the school and why I can continue to support it. To lose that community and focus would turn it into just another music school like all the others I ignored. I urge you to settle the campus question once and for all as quickly as possible so as not to damage the goodwill value any further.


Wm. Glenn Osborne
B. Mus, ‘94
Member, Westminster Alumni Council

Hymn Tune Psalms

One of the challenges in the Roman Catholic Church is trying to find ways to encourage and enable the congregation to sing. Unless you use a seasonal psalm refrain, this generally means the congregation has a new melody to learn every week with the responsorial psalm. Sure, you can build up a repertoire over time, but there’s not a lot of repetition in the three-year lectionary cycle. One of the easiest ways to learn a piece is through repetition, so I decided to use hymn tunes as melodies for the psalms. This reinforces the singing of the hymns and gives something familiar to the people for the psalm. I created numerous of these settings while at the Cathedral in Albany and now am in the process of revising them (and perhaps finishing the set) to go with the new Revised Grail Psalms. We used the first of these new revised hymn tune psalms at Mass this weekend for Advent 2.
Psalm 72 – Justice Shall Flourish
Refrain based on EIN FESTE BURG with Gelineau-style tone by Wm. Glenn Osborne

Music Requires Participation

A brief recruitment message given over the weekend at Mass demonstrating that making music is dependent upon people. I would love to have more people participate in music at the Cathedral. Visit for more information about music at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.

Psalms for Jazz Vespers

Jazz and Roman Catholic are two worlds that don’t meet up very often. Jazz has been used in other worship traditions, but the liturgical structure of Roman Catholic worship provides challenges for the free improvisatory nature of jazz. Yes, there are Jazz Masses that have been composed, but even most of those would be considered concert works and vary from the imposed structure of a liturgical celebration.

When we celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen on Homecoming weekend, we are including Evening Prayer on Sunday afternoon. All of the music will be in the jazz idiom and accompanied by the Kevin Myers Quartet. In order to fit the liturgical requirements for the celebration, I composed two psalms, a canticle, and some other incidental responses. We had a first rehearsal with the singers and band leader Kevin Myers last Friday. Here are a few samples from the celebration. I hope to post videos from the celebration after it is over.

First Psalm: Psalm 147: 1-11

Second Psalm: Psalm 147: 12-20

Canticle: Revelation 19: 1-7

Psalm 17

When I composed the Audubon Park Psalter, my intention was that most all of the settings would be flexible enough to work in a traditional setting with organ and choir as well as a more contemporary setting with piano and guitar. While I have attempted to make recordings of the Contemporary Group at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen before, because I have been the one at the piano, it has been difficult to capture anything remotely balanced. This week, I was able to be out in the congregation, so captured the psalm while standing next to a pillar. Here’s the resulting video:

What I really appreciate is being able to hear the people sing, even though this is a new piece for them.

I also captured the psalm at the 11:00 Mass with the choir and organ:

Vierne for Improvistion

My last lesson for featured instructions on transposition and suggested using a piece by Louis Vierne as the transposition exercise and a model for improvising. The piece is a relatively simple piece from the 24 Pièces en style libre: 1. Préambule.

As transposition practice, I played it in C# major, D Major, Eb Major, and started it in several other keys.

After that, I followed the score as a model and improvised some imitation Vierne in F Major and in G minor. There are some hesitations as I searched for similar interesting tonal gestures without following exactly what Vierne did, but that’s why we practice. I decided to make this exercise my prelude this weekend, so there are two more that follow the score less slavishly in A minor and D minor as well.

Psalm 40 Blues

The Old Testament reading for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C is the story of Jeremiah being thrown into a cistern where he is expected to sink into the mud and die. The Responsorial Psalm that follows is a set of verses from Psalm 40 with the refrain, “Lord, come to my aid.” When I first encountered this set of readings back in 1995, the most obvious musical idea was to make it a 12-bar blues. It was a little bit of a stretch to get the verses and refrain to line up consistently, but perhaps more of a stretch to do the premier on a little two-manual German baroque style organ!

As the setting only appears once every three years, I don’t really know how often or where I’ve been able to do it since then. Many times, this pushes the envelope of what is accepted or expected for music in the churches I have served. There is a contemporary group at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, and I’ve heard some requests for some more modern music, so I put it on the schedule this year. Here’s the video from the 9:30 am Mass on 14 August 2016:

A child decided it was time to play with the kneelers during verse three. It would have been great to have some well-timed percussion, but sometimes you just take what you get.

Note: This is not included in the Audubon Park Psalter, though it could show up in a later volume of more contemporary/gospel/jazz psalm settings.