Singing to Our Lady
Father William Quinlivan, better known as “Father Bill,” has had a devotion to the Blessed Mother ever since he was a child.
His devotion to Mary combines with the pro-life cause in his music, based on his upbringing.
“Growing up, we had a lot of religious art in our home, including a statue of Mary that we prayed the Rosary in front of,” said Father Quinlivan. Most of the religious art was given to his family by his aunt, who was a Sister of Mercy.
Pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in Tonawanda, N.Y., Father Quinlivan is known locally for his singing and songwriting. He has recorded seven CDs since 2006, including Hail, a Marian-themed collection of songs (FrBillSings.com).
“Ever since I started recording, I’ve had a Marian song on each CD,” said Father Quinlivan. “However, Hail is the first one that focuses entirely on Mary.”
While his other CDs are his original compositions, Hail features some of his favorite Marian songs written by other songwriters, as well as a few of his own. Father Quinlivan uses his talents to help his parish; proceeds from his CDs go to his church.
“Hail, Virgin, Dearest Mary is a May-crowning song I grew up with at St. Teresa’s in South Buffalo,” said Father Quinlivan. “I was a child when I first sang this song, so I wanted to have children sing along with me when I recorded it.”
He enlisted the help of the sixth-grade girls’ choir, under the director of Daniel Victoor, from St. Gregory the Great parish in Williamsville, N.Y., where he previously served as parochial vicar.
“They sang so beautifully that I had them sing a verse by themselves.”
Two of the songs on the CD were recorded live in his church. “We recorded Ave Maria live, with just my voice and the organ.”
The other live song, Serdeczna Matko (Beloved Mother) was recorded in Polish, a language that Father Quinlivan does not speak. “I’ve been challenged by language, so I had someone coach me in Polish. This was raising the bar — recording live in a different language.”
He got his inspiration for Underground Rosaries from praying the Rosary while walking through Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, N.Y., where his parents are buried. “It struck me that so many people buried there were buried with rosaries in their hands,” said Father Quinlivan. “I love the tradition of being buried with a rosary in your hand. Holding a rosary in death is symbolic of your life of prayer and Marian devotion.”
Hail also features two pro-life songs. Hymn to the Unborn Savior was actually written about 10 years before he decided to record the CD. In this song, the Blessed Mother is praying to the Child in her womb long before he is born. “I wrote this song to include a female voice,” said Father Quinlivan. “I invited my friend, well-known Catholic singer Gretchen Harris, to sing the Marian refrains.” He continued, “Harris lives in California, so my producer sent the track to her producer and she recorded her part in California. My producer was then able to mix it so that it sounded like we were singing in the same room.”
The second pro-life song, Life Is Sacred, was written just before Father Quinlivan went on a pilgrimage to Guadalupe, Mexico. “The first time I ever sang it was at the shrine at Guadalupe. I sang it at the Mass for our pilgrims.”
Father Quinlivan’s Irish roots are reflected in Irish Marian Hymn. “While on a trip to Ireland, I had purchased a CD of violin music. One melody stirred my soul and was calling to me. I loved the melody so much that I wanted to write lyrics for it.”
The last song on the CD, Mother of Priests, focuses on the long-held tradition for priests to have a devotion to Mary.
Asked where he gets the inspiration for his songs, he stated that the songs can come to him anytime, so he’s always prepared to write them down.
“Often, lyrics come to me when I’m in Eucharistic adoration,” said Father Quinlivan. “The melody usually comes after. I will sit at the piano or with my guitar and try to find the melody for the lyrics.”
He added, “I follow the music where the Lord leads me. I’m often surprised where I find myself.”
Timely listening for Mary’s birthday on Sept. 8.
Christine A. Smyczynski writes from Getzville, New York.
- marian songs