Sacred Music

by Paul Jernberg

Musicians will enter on this new work (the composition of sacred music) with the desire to continue that tradition which has furnished the Chruch, in her divine worship, with a truly abundant heritage.  Let them examine the woks of the past, their types and characteristics, ... so that "new forms may in some way grow organically from forms that already exist," and the new work will form a new part in the musical heritage of the Church, not unworthy of its past,

-Musicam Sacram, Art. 59

About the Composer


Paul Jernberg, Jr.

Paul Jernberg is presently Music Director of St. Monica and St. Lucy Parishes in Methuen, Massachusetts, and Composer-in-Residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Born in Chicago in 1953, he was immersed from an early age in great classical and sacred music through a family life in which music-making at home, in church and at the concert hall held a prominent place. His grandmother, Minnie Cedargreen Jernberg (1888 – 1967),  who had been a renowned concert violinist in early 20th century Chicago, became for Paul a cherished and enduring model of musical depth and spirituality.

The classical piano studies which he began at six years old eventually became a passion in high school, and were complemented by studies with composer/organist Irwin Fischer (1903 – 1977) and Chicago jazz legend Art Hodes (1904 – 1993.) After further music and piano studies at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Paul embarked on full-time work as a pianist. This phase of his career included extensive work as accompanist of ballet and musical theater, as well as solo performances in the United States and Europe.

Pursuing the opportunity to live and work in Sweden (1983-1993), his professional musical work there expanded to include singing, choral directing and composition. During this time, an encounter with l’Arche founder Jean Vanier led to visits to l’Arche in France and the joy of deepening involvement with the intellectually disabled. This opened many new doors for personal and professional growth, as Paul composed and lead music for l’Arche and its sister organization, Faith and Light.

For the final three years of his residence in Sweden, Paul lived in a Franciscan monastery outside of Gothenburg. This allowed him to be immersed in the liturgical life of the community and studies, alongside his continuing musical work. Participation in the daily singing of Gregorian chant in the Liturgy brought a new understanding and appreciation of this great tradition and of its role in the life of the Church.


Since returning to the U.S. in 1993, Paul has been a parish music director, composer, and teacher: in Chicago’s inner city, in Peoria, Illinois, and in Massachusetts. During his ten years at Trivium School in Lancaster, Massachusetts, he taught not only music but also English Literature and Composition, Theology, Latin, French, and Algebra. As director of the Trivium Chorale and the Schola Cantorum of St. John’s Parish in nearby Clinton, he led these choirs in their beautiful, warmly acclaimed singing of countless Liturgies and concerts. Their broad sacred repertoire has included Chant, Renaissance Polyphony, classical and contemporary choral music and many of Paul’s compositions.

In 2005 he became the founding director of Magnificat Academy, a choir school with a full academic curriculum for grades 4-12 in Warren, Massachusetts. This was at the time one of three Catholic choir schools in the U.S., and the only one to include all high school grades. Taking students with virtually no musical background and training them on a daily basis, the Magnificat Academy Choir under Paul’s direction came to be known and loved throughout New England and beyond for their inspiring performances and recordings.  In 2009 the school became attached to the Cathedral of St. Paul in Worcester. Although  classes were discontinued in 2011 due to shortage of  funds, Magnificat Academy continues its mission today as a non-profit organization for the promotion of sacred music.

In the summer of 2014, the nationally renowned Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle recorded Paul’s Mass of Saint Philip Neri, which is the first published musical setting of the entire Ordinary of the Mass in English, for congregation and choir. Having received wide acclaim, this music is now being sung in parishes throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

©Paul Jernberg and Magnificat Academy.