“New Kid” on the Block

I dearly hope that I was invited to this blog in hopes that I would side with Jeffrey Tucker on the Josquin/Byrd controversy now raging.  Alas for JT, I’ll go with Byrd, though I’m really a Tallis kind of girl.

Setting that aside, please allow for a brief introduction – this once only, I promise.  I’m Mary Jane Ballou, a musician based in St. Augustine, Florida, a city whose founding began with a chanted Te Deum and a Mass in 1565.  My choral conducting experience ranges from Anglican to Russian Orthodox churches, as well as both the Byzantine and Latin Rites.  I also teach chant workshops and work with choir directors and pastors looking to upgrade their musical offerings.  My exemplars of sane and thorough teaching are Arlene Oost-Zinner and Scott Turkington.  And the late Fr. Lawrence Heiman, C.PP.S. who enabled me to overcome my fear of the ictus. 

Quite frankly, I just can’t get enough of sacred music and many find my “small c” catholic tastes confounding. Znammeny and Serbian chant, Sacred Harp and Anglican hymnody all appeal.  At the same time, I am keenly aware of what styles belong in the sanctuary and/or loft and what styles are meant for the plaza outside the church!

Right now, I direct a small women’s ensemble, resident at the Mission Nombre de Dios in St. Augustine, that ranges over 1,000 years of sacred music – from Gregorian chant to contemporary settings.  I am also a professional harpist and always looking for connections between strings and voices, remembering that the harp was a valued accompaniment to the sacred music of New Spain.

I’ve blogged for years, written for Sacred Music, and am delighted to “join the conversation,” as they like to say on National Public Radio.  

8 Replies to ““New Kid” on the Block”

  1. Heh — "remembering that the harp was a valued accompaniment to the sacred music of New Spain" — and King David the Psalmist too, for that matter!


  2. Welcome aboard! Here's to many great discussions! (Now I'll go and sing some Church Slavonic, myself. The Rachmaninoff "Bogoritsiye Devo" we learned with Horst and Cecelia at the Colloquium . . . )

  3. Anyone who plays a plucked string instrument is okay with me. That you are part of the Heiman tree of chant lovers is a plus. And Tallis? Yay! (Only one exclamation for me, though.)


  4. Wonderful news! Mary Jane, I find your writing pithy, witty, and informative. Can't wait to absorb more of it!

    It's only a matter of time before you come to recognize Josquin as the sublime composer of the ages. Even for altos.

  5. It will be interesting to follow your notes. I'm a "recovering" sacred harp singer and a bringer of Balkan village songs to rural Ontario. Tired now and looking for new spirit – finding some in new musical thanatology/chant forms being developed for the dying. Hoping!

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