Hail, Holy Queen – Marc Shaiman (1959-present)

This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of our parish magazine.

639851970_1280x720In the first “Sister Act” film, a Reno lounge singer named Deloris Van Carter (played by Whoopi Goldberg) witnesses her mobster boyfriend killing an employee. She is then hidden in a convent under a witness protection program. She doesn’t take easily to the life, and when the Mother Superior (Maggie Smith) catches Deloris going out to a bar in the night followed by Sisters Mary Robert and Mary Patrick, she orders her to join the church choir. This has unexpected consequences, as Deloris takes the nuns from being a collection of timid tuneless non-singers to a lively, well rehearsed and confident Gospel Choir. This transformation happens very publicly during their first performance under Deloris’ leadership: they begin very formally, to the evident approval of the Mother Superior – and obvious boredom of the priest. Soon, they abandon that style of delivery and switch to swinging Gospel. The Mother Superior clearly disapproves, but the priest stirs to welcome members of the local community who wander in off the street to find the source of the sound.

The plot of the movie continues to twist and turn, but the untold story is that of the church: a woefully tiny congregation served by a tired priest and secluded convent has a larger-than-life woman of questionable reputation dropped into their midst, and things are never quite the same again. They are forced to remember just who it was that Jesus loved and ministered to. They are jolted out of their complacency to welcome new people to their community, who have sought their fellowship as a direct result of the ‘bad’ woman’s music and passion.

The ‘turning point’ song is “Hail, Holy Queen”, and the lyrics are:

Verse 1:

  • Hail holy Queen enthroned above,
  • Oh Maria,
  • Hail mother of Mercy and of Love,
  • Oh Maria,
  • Triumph all ye cherubim!
  • Sing with us ye seraphim!
  • Heaven and Earth, resound the hymn!
  • Salve, salve, salve Regina!

(Verse 1 repeat)

Verse 2:

  • Our life, our sweetness here below,
  • Oh Maria,
  • Our hope in sorrow and in woe,
  • Oh Maria,
  • Triumph all ye cherubim,
  • Sing with us ye seraphim,
  • Heaven and Earth resound the Hymn!
  • Salve, salve, salve Regina!


  • A-le-lu-iah
  • Mater ad mater inter marata
  • Sanctus sanctus dominus
  • Virgo respice mater ad spice
  • Sanctus sanctus dominus
  • A-le-lu-iah

(Verse 2 repeat)

  • Salve, salve, salve Regina!
  • Salve Regina!
  • Salve Regina!

Unusually for my Monthly Musical Musings, the words and meaning of this song are not particularly important for me. Instead it is the nuns’ awakening to the sheer joy of singing together in praise, that music really does speak in the language of the soul and move us at a very deeply primitive level. As Saint Francis said, “preach the Gospel at all times; use words if necessary”.

Not all music is to everyone’s taste, and it is good and healthy that we are all different. By all means, develop your own listening preferences, but remain open to new and different music. Have a listen to the choir of nuns learning to love their music and singing under Deloris’ leadership here.

Carol P

PS – if you are moved to sing like the nuns, you may be interested to know that Sister Act Live is coming to Manchester on 1 September 2018.

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