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

"Composer Paul Jernberg has composed a new setting of the Roman Catholic Mass for a cappella choir. It was recorded this past summer with the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle in Chicago under the direction of Maestro J. Michael Thompson, and is now available for purchase at: www.pauljernberg.com

I find this Mass setting very beautiful; very contemplative. As a composer from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church tradition, I feel very much at home in its aesthetic, one that I would characterize as eschewing the harshness of electric light in favor of the soft glow emanating from candlelight.

As in the Eastern church tradition, this Mass setting is sung completely from A – Z by priest, choir, and readers. Mr. Jernberg’s musical transitions between priest and choir are stylistically coherent and seamless. I would recommend that all young composers study Mr. Jernberg’s organic setting, as I have often found it jarring when a priest sings chant and is then responded to by the choir in a completely different musical style.

Another eastern rite similarity is the use of a melody over an ison, or drone. This essentially monophonic device is complemented in this setting by polyphonic consonant harmonies, with a judicious use of suspensions and appoggiaturas, often ending with stern, medieval sounding open fifth chords. However, no matter the harmonic texture, the text of the prayers is always clear to the listener (kudos to Maestro Thompson and his choir!), and is always served beautifully by the music. Clearly, Mr. Jernberg was guided in his compositional process by the principle of Noble Simplicity, and although there are similarities to the Eastern polyphonic style in this setting, it is clearly grounded in the greatness of the Western tradition.

Finally, in a mere forty years, the year 2054 will mark the millennium of the Great Schism between the ‘two lungs’ of the church: Eastern and Western. To my mind, Mr. Jernberg’s setting helps bring these two traditions closer together. Kudos to Mr. Jernberg and kudos to the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle under the direction of Maestro Thompson!"

- Roman Hurko (Originally published at www.TheWayofBeauty.org)

Writer for Ukrainian Greek Catholic liturgy

©Paul Jernberg and Magnificat Academy.