Monday, December 22, 2014

On the Restoration of Chartres Cathedral - Guest Article by Mr Lucas Viar

My thanks to an old friend, Mr Lucas Viar Basterra, for providing us with this assessment of the on-going restoration of the cathedral of Chartres, and critique of some of the controversies related to it. Mr Viar was born in Houston, Texas, but has lived most of his life in Bilbao, Spain. After studying architecture in San Sebastián, and Restoration and Sacred art at La Sapienza in Rome, he has worked for the Municipal Museums of Florence and the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute. He is currently starting his own firm. 

photo from 
Many NLM readers will be familiar with the cathedral of Chartres as the destination of the Péle, the Pentecost pilgrimage organized by Notre-Dame de Chrétienté (Our Lady of Christendom). Every year several thousand Catholics from all over the world walk together the 60 miles that separate Paris from Chartres. The cathedral can be seen from miles around, like a beacon rising from the rolling green fields of the landscape. It is truly a breathtaking sight.

The great cathedral at Chartres is not only an important Catholic centre for France, It is also one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. Chartres defines the archetype of what a Gothic cathedral should be. It’s proportions, arches, stained glass windows, spires, sculptures, are what all other Gothic churches in France are measured against.

The building has had a fortunately uneventful history. It survived the French Revolution almost unscathed, when churches such as Notre-Dame de Paris were plundered, vandalized or repurposed. It was also heroically saved from bombing during World War II by an American Army Officer. This makes the cathedral of Chartres one of the best preserved 13th century Gothic churches in France.

The vaults before restoration. Photo by Andreas F. Borchert
Too often we are saddened by reports of the demolition of beautiful churches, but here I am pleased to discuss the efforts that are being made to help this wonderful monument to our faith survive for another eight centuries. In 2009, the French government, which has owned the building since the Revolution, embarked on a massive restoration campaign. The works have been scheduled to last for a decade and cost over 20 million euros. The vast majority of the work is being carried out on the interior of the cathedral, and includes the restoration of the spectacular stained glass windows.

Everybody seems very happy to see the windows cleaned and restored, but another side of this restoration is proving to be more controversial. I am referring to the alleged “repainting” of the vaults, pillars and walls of the church. The fact that the interiors of medieval churches were commonly plastered and painted seems to be something new and somewhat uncomfortable to some in the art history community, not unlike the idea that Greek sculptures were vividly colored. In 1989 the first findings of mural painting at Chartres were published, and an extensive sampling campaign conducted in 1994 determined that around 80% of the interior surface of the church had preserved its 13th-century decoration.

The original decoration emerges during the cleaning process.
The design painted on the vaults and walls of the cathedral was a simple one, a light ochre background over which lines were painted in white to simulate masonry. One of reasons medieval builders did this was to cover up any irregularities or faults in the actual stonework, and give the interior a tidy, continuous finish, with an appearance of strength and quality. Over time, this first rendering was darkened by dust, soot and grime. With the passing of the centuries the walls and vaults were whitewashed to give the interior a cleaner look. These washes were fairly thin, and so with time, the lines beneath them started to appear. This factor, coupled with more soot and grime, made the visitor believe that what he was seeing was actual stone.

The aim of the restoration in progress is to uncover these original decorations. I believe that most specialists agree that 13th-century mural decorations have the same historic importance as 13th century stained glass. Therefore, I find that the effort to clean, consolidate and preserve them very laudable. A short video published by the French Ministry of Culture shows different stages of the restoration process. At 00:36, we can see how the painted decoration appears miraculously when the grime is removed with a brush. Other parts need to be painstakingly cleaned with a scalpel. The parts where the 13th century rendering has been lost are repainted in imitation of the original, a process is known as reintegration. Today, halfway through the project, we can see side by side the before and after states of the nave.

The vaults of the sanctuary, ambulatory and choir have been cleaned and reintegrated, while the rest of the nave remains a dark grimy gray. The contrast is enormous. Restoration has also concluded on the 18th century decorations of the sanctuary, including gilding and faux marble.

The nave and the restored sanctuary. Photo by Marianne Casamance
At this point, enter the art critics: The Spectator’s Alasdair Palmer a couple of years ago, Le Figaro’s Adrien Goetz, and last week Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books. They use words such as tragedy, disgrace, sacrilege or scandalous makeover. I find the latest of these critic articles, that by Mr. Filler, particularly aggressive.

As an architect specialized in heritage restoration, I feel a strong empathy towards the people behind the restoration at Chartres. Coincidentally, a few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Prof. Anne Vuillemard-Jenn. The subject was historic mural painting in French Gothic churches, among them, Chartres.

Everybody is entitled to an opinion, and, in the case of these gentlemen, it’s the way they make their living. I would certainly not argue against criticism towards some of the criteria applied in Chartres. For example, one could argue endlessly on the manner and degree in which the walls were cleaned, or on if they should have reintegrated the missing parts using a muted color instead of reproducing the masonry motif, or if the vision of the stained glass has been distorted by a too bright interior.

Mr Filler, fueled by the feeling of disappointment during his last visit, accuses the team lead by Frédéric Didier, of repainting the cathedral in what he terms “garish”colors. He doesn’t seem to grasp the fact that what we see today has been there for the past 800 years. He is keen on the idea that what he saw when he last visited Chartres 30 years ago was not an accumulation of grime and soot over this decorations, but actual stone.

In an attempt to discredit the professional capabilities of the project’s director, Didier, he brings up a previous project, the Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart at Paray-le-Monial. This church, where St Margaret Mary of Alacoque had her famous visions, had underwent a very aggressive renovation during the first half of the 20th century, when all the walls were scraped to bring out the stone. The project, directed by Didier, who according to Mr. Filler “wrecked” the church, included the rendering of the bare stone walls in white and ochre, colors close to the few original remains left.

The article in the New York Review was almost immediately answered by two renowned scholars, Madeline Caviness and Jeffrey Hamburger. As members of the American Friends of Chartres advisory board they have had a very detailed knowledge of what has been done there, and in their response they politely point out the article’s mistakes and describe clearly the extent of the works. Nevertheless, Filler responds shortly after, with another aggressive tirade, doubting the impartiality of these two scholars and the quality of the scientific research behind the project.
Vaults of the nave. Photo by M. Mensler
If one strips away the disqualifications and the pejorative descriptions from his writing, the only arguments that Filler has to criticize the restoration are of a subjective, aesthetic, and almost emotional nature, which could be summarized as: “I don’t like it because it doesn’t look medieval enough”. As I have said, we are all entitled to opinions of that type.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dominican Rite Solemn Mass of Christmas Day, at the Kensington CA Carmel

Kensington Carmel Chapel During Renovations (Summer 2014)
I am pleased to announce that the Mass of Christmas Day at the new Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family in Kensington CA, will be celebrated as a Solemn Mass according to the Dominican Rite.

The Mass will be served by students of the Western Dominican Province; the celebrant and preacher will be Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., Professor of History at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley CA.  The Mass will be sung by the Carmelite nuns. This Mass is open to the public: December 25, at 11:30 a.m.

The Oakland Diocese Carmel of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph was founded three years ago.  They moved into the newly renovated Berkeley Carmel (see picture) three months ago, and has ten nuns.  It is located at 68 Rincon Road, Kensington, CA 94707, and is easily reached by Arlington Avenue from north Berkeley.  There is ample parking.

The London Oratory Carol Service 2014

The London Oratory Carol Service takes place tomorrow evening, Monday 22 December at 7.30pm (doors open from 7pm). The service follows the pattern of the traditional English Carol Service, with the addition of Benediction. In the spirit of St Philip Neri's love of drawing the faithful to devotion through the powerful combination of scripture and music, all of the carols are closely related to the readings. Rachmaninov's Ave Maria follows the reading of Gabriel's Message, while Peter Cornelius's Three Kings, with its climactic 'offer thy heart to the infant King' is the motet sung before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.

A particular feature of this service is the interplay between the Oratory's Junior Choir, for boys and girls aged 8-16, and the professional Senior Choir, in medieval cantiones as well as in the traditional German alternation of Quem pastores, in which the 'Angels' (the Junior Choir) sing from the gallery while the 'Shepherds' (the Senior Choir) respond from below with 'Nunc angelorum gloria!'. The service will include a carol by the Oratory's organist, Matthew Martin, on the text of the 'O' Antiphon for December 22, O Rex Gentium.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Solemn Mass in DC for Epiphany

A Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite will be offered for the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. The music, provided by Chantry, will be the Missa Ave Maris Stella by Tomás Luis de Victoria and the Propers from the 1607 Gradualia by William Byrd. The celebrant and homilist will be the pastor, Monsignor Charles Pope. Free parking is available at the Public Charter School, 1503 East Capitol Street S.E.

Further details are available here.

Mozart's Spatzenmesse, Christmas Eve in Jersey City, NJ

Mozart’s Missa Brevis in C Major, also known as the “Spatzenmesse - Sparrow Mass”, will be performed on Christmas Eve at the 9:00 PM Traditional Latin High Mass in downtown Jersey City’s historic St. Anthony’s Church, located at Monmouth St. between 6th and 7th. Simone Ferraresi, the noted composer, pianist and conductor will be directing the Cantantes in Cordibus chorus and orchestra. A strong drive behind St. Anthony’s performance of this classical sacred masterpiece is the many young parishioners who have recently joined the growing parish in a quickly gentrifyng city. 

The Spatzenmesse or Sparrow Mass was written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1775 or 1776 in Salzburg. This Mass had its debut on Easter Sunday 1776 at the Cathedral of Salzburg. It is called “the Sparrow Mass” from the violin figures played at the words “Hosanna in excelsis”of the Sanctus, which sound like the chirping of birds.

A concert of Seasonal Sacred Music will begin at 8:30, and will include selections from Handel’s Messiah, as well selections from the Renaissance and Romantic Periods. The program also includes the ancient Gregorian Chants sung by the Men’s Schola. Selections from Monteverdi’s Vespers and Vivaldi’s baroque masterpiece, Gloria will also be performed.

The director, Simone Ferraresi, studied at the Conservatory of Music in Ferrara, Italy where he earned his degree with highest honors; at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna he studied with world renowned pianist and musicologist Paul Badura-Skoda. Maestro Ferraresi specialized in interpretation of classical composers; at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he was awarded the Diploma of the Royal Academy of Music – the highest examinable award given by the Royal Academy. He was also awarded three special prizes for best performance in the final recital. He is the founder and artistic director of the Ferrara International Piano Festival.

St. Anthony’s Church is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Sites. The church built in the Victorian Gothic Style is a pristine example of a church untouched by modern elements and remains a true example of Roman Catholic aesthetic rarely seen today. The church parking lot is located on 6th St. between Coles and Monmouth Street and is easily accessible from the Grove Street PATH, the Newport PATH and Light Rail stop.

Midnight Mass in the Extraordinary Form in Detroit

St. Joseph Church, Mother of Divine Mercy Parish in Detroit will have a Solemn High Midnight Mass in the Extraordinary Form, with music beginning at 11:30 p.m. The St. Joseph Cappella, Soloists, and Chamber Orchestra will also present this music at an Ordinary Form Mass for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 11:30 a.m.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Una Voce Austria Interview with Cardinal Burke

In an English-language interview on Gloria TV with Una Voce Austria, recently transcribed, His Eminence Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke spoke about a variety of issues facing the Church today. What I appreciate most is the Cardinal's beautiful reflections on Catholic life as it used to be and his sober assessment of the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. It can be tiresome to hear people go on about "how bad things were before the Council" and "how much we needed the Council." Sure, there were problems, and no one can deny it; did we ever expect the Catholic Church on earth to be free from problems? Is the fallen human race ever free of problems? But what men like Cardinal Burke help us to see is that, in fact, things were a great deal better, in general, before the Council, and that we are still very much in a rebuilding and recovery mode right now, like emergency workers after a giant earthquake or tsunami strikes.

Here are some excerpts:
          Q. Your Eminence, you grew up before the Second Vatican Council. How do you remember those times?
          A. I grew up in a very beautiful time in the Church, in which we were carefully instructed in the faith, both at home and in the Catholic school, especially with the Baltimore Catechism. I remember the great beauty of the Sacred Liturgy, even in our little farming town, with beautiful Masses. And then, I'm of course most grateful for my parents who gave me a very sound up-bringing in how to live as a Catholic. So they were beautiful years.
          Q. A friend of mine who was born after the Council used to say, "Not everything was good in the old days, but everything was better." What do you think about this?
          A. Well, we have to live in whatever time the Lord gives us. Certainly, I have very good memories of growing up in the 1950's and early 1960's. I think what is most important is that we appreciate the organic nature of our Catholic Faith and appreciate the Tradition to which we belong and by which the Faith has come to us.
          Q. Did you embrace the big changes after the Council with enthusiasm?
          A. What happened soon after the Council - I was in the minor seminary at that time, and we followed what was happening at the Council - but the experience after the Council was so strong and even in some cases violent, that I have to say that, even as a young man, I began to question some things - whether this was really what was intended by the Council - because I saw many beautiful things that were in the Church suddenly no longer present and even considered no longer beautiful. I think, for instance, of the great tradition of Gregorian Chant or the use of Latin in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy. Then also, of course, the so-called 'Spirit of Vatican II' influenced other areas - for instance, the moral life, the teaching of the Faith - and then we saw so many priest abandoning their priestly ministry, so many religious sisters abandoning religious life. So, there were definitely aspects about the post-conciliar period that raised questions.
          Q. You were ordained a priest in 1975. Did you think that something in the Church had gone wrong?
          A. Yes, I believe so. In some way, we lost a strong sense of the centrality of the Sacred Liturgy and, therefore, of the priestly office and ministry in the Church. I have to say, I was so strongly raised in the Faith, and had such a strong understanding of vocation, that I never could refuse to do what Our Lord was asking. But I saw that there was something that had definitely gone wrong. I witnessed, for instance, as a young priest the emptiness of the catachesis. The catechetical texts were so poor. Then I witnessed the liturgical experimentations - some of which I just don't even want to remember - the loss of the devotional life, the attendance at Sunday Mass began to steadily decrease: all of those were signs to me that something had gone wrong.
          Q. Would you have imagined in 1975 that, one day, you would offer Mass in the rite that was abandoned for the sake of renewal?
          A. No, I would not have imagined it. Although, I also have to say that I find it very normal, because it was such a beautiful rite, and that the Church recovered it seems to me to be a very healthy sign. But, at the time, I must say that the liturgical reform in particular was very radical and, as I said before, even violent, and so the the thought of a restoration didn't seem possible, really. But, thanks be to God, it happened.
          Q. Juridically, the Novus Ordo and the Traditional Latin Mass are the same rite. Is this also your factual experience when you celebrate a Pontifical High Mass in the new or the old rite?
          A. Yes, I understand that they are the same rite, and I believe that, when the so-called New Rite or the Ordinary Form is celebrated with great care and with a strong sense that the Holy Liturgy is the action of God, one can see more clearly the unity of the two forms of the same rite. On the other hand, I do hope that - with time - some of the elements which unwisely were removed from the rite of the Mass, which has now become the Ordinary Form, could be restored, because the difference between the two forms is very stark.
          Q. In what sense?
          A. The rich articulation of the Extraordinary Form, all of which is always pointing to the theocentric nature of the liturgy, is practically diminished to the lowest possible degree in the Ordinary Form.
          Q. The Synod on the Family has been a shock and sometimes even a scandal, especially for young Catholic families who are the future of the Church. Do they have reasons to worry?
          A. Yes, they do. I think that the report that was given at the mid-point of the session of the Synod, which just ended October 18th, is perhaps one of the most shocking public documents of the Church that I could imagine. And, so, it is a cause for very serious alarm and it's especially important that good Catholic families who are living the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony rededicate themselves to a sound married life and that also they use whatever occasions they have to give witness to the beauty of the truth about marriage which they are experiencing daily in their married life.
          Q. Most practicing Catholics in an average parish in Western Europe and the U.S. are those who were baptized and catechized before the Council. Is the Church in these countries living from her past?
          A. I think that my generation, for instance, was blessed to grow up at a time in which there was a strong practice of the Catholic Faith, a strong tradition of participation in Sunday Mass and the Sacred Liturgy, a strong devotional life, a strong teaching of the Faith. But in some way, I believe, we sadly took it for granted, and the same attention was not given to pass on the Faith as we had come to know it to the success of generations. Now what I see it that many young people are hungering and thirsting - and this already for some time - to know the Catholic Faith at its roots and to experience many aspects of the richness of the tradition of the Faith. So I believe that there is a recovery precisely of what had been for a period of time lost or not cared for in a proper manner. I think that now there is a rebirth at work among the young Catholics.

1967 English Dominican Rite Breviary, Vol. 2, Available for Download

It has been called to attention the the second volume of the English translation of the Breviary according to the Rite of the Order of Preachers, published by order of fr. Aniceto Fernandez, O.P., translated by the Irish Dominican Sisters (Dublin: St. Saviour's, 1967) has been made available online by Corpus Christi Watershead, in four PDF files.

I have also made these files available on the left side bar, at Dominican Liturgy. Note, however, that this download may be slow on some computers.  Let us hope that this wonderful resource will soon be followed by files for volume 1.

I also remind readers that since this edition was translated after Sacrosanctum Concilium, 89 (1963), it lacks the Office of Prime.  That office is available in English as part of the Dominican Rite Ordo for 2015, published by Dominican Liturgy Publications.

The Society of Saint Dominic Website

Regular readers of NLM will have noticed that we have posted events sponsored by the Society of Saint Dominic, located in Winnipeg. Not long ago they welcomed the great Fr. John Saward to speak to them on "The Call to Holiness and the Hidden Riches of the Traditional Latin Mass." 

The Society's mission is ambitious and well in keeping with the best and noblest of Catholic ideals:
The Society's mission: the salvation of souls through the rediscovery of the contemplative Catholic tradition in her arts, her liturgy and the lives and writings of her Saints. Incorporated in Winnipeg -- as a private association of the lay faithful -- it promotes spiritual conferences, public talks and cultural events which emphasize the Spiritual Acts of Mercy; to instruct the ignorant; to pray for the living and the dead. Under the dual Queenship of Our Lady of the Rosary and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the Society of St. Dominic invokes the patronage of one monastic and two mendicant saints: Saint Dominic of Silos, Saint Dominic Guzman and Saint Therese of Lisieux.
My purpose today is simply to direct readers to the stunningly beautiful website they have developed, itself a testimony to their principled love of sacredness and beauty. Its four sections are Musica Sacra, Sacra Liturgia, Architectura Sacra, and Sacra Doctrina. Although currently the Society is mostly making available articles and documentaries produced by others, their website is establishing itself as a very nice gathering spot for lovers of tradition and beauty. I highly recommend a visit.

Introducing a New Series of Chant Workshops from The Liturgical Institute

We are happy to share with our readers the following information from Prof. Adam Bartlett of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.

I am very excited to introduce a new initiative in sacred music education from The Liturgical Institute (Mundelein) in collaboration with Illuminare Publications.

As a new member of the faculty and staff of The Liturgical Institute, I am offering a series of chant workshops throughout the year on the Mundelein campus, and am also making available a traveling workshop program to dioceses around the country. These day-long workshops have been designed around the liturgical seasons, and are intended primarily for parish musicians and clergy as a resource for continuing formation and training.

Those who work with the liturgy on the parish level know that mere training is not enough. In order to renew and strengthen parish music programs, quality music resources are also needed. This is why the Institute’s chant workshops will make use of the books and resources in the Lumen Christi Series, which I have edited with Illuminare Publications, alongside the Church’s official chant books. In this way, theory can be put into practice on the parish level with reliable resources that are accessible to parishes today.

The first workshops are being offered this January, at the USML Mundelein Conference Center, focusing on the Chants of Lent and Holy Week.

Join us on January 9th, 2015 for a workshop on The Chants of Lent, which will provide a general introduction to the principles of liturgical chant, and will explore the antiphons and propers of the Lenten season. Find out more and register for the conference here.

Also, on January 15th, 2015 the popular conference Treasures of the Triduum will explore the Chants of Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil. Learn more and register here.

I am very excited to begin this new effort with The Liturgical Institute, and am very glad to bring my work with the Lumen Christi Series into collaboration with an educational program that will help parishes enact lasting, authentic liturgical renewal. I hope that you will join me, and encourage your pastors and music directors to send their liturgical musicians to these and future workshops!

To learn more or to learn how to host a chant workshop in your diocese, please contact The Liturgical Institute at, or call 847-837-4540.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Photopost Request: Gaudete Sunday and Rorate Masses

We will be doing a photopost of Gaudete Sunday Masses, featuring your rose-colored vestments, and any Rorate Masses celebrated at any point this Advent, in either Form of the Roman Rite, as well as celebrations of the Office. Please send photos to: for inclusion in the photopost. Thanks!

Gregorian Chant Workshop in New York

On February 7, from 9am-2pm, I will be giving a workshop entitled, “Introduction to Gregorian Chant: Spirituality, History, and the Basics of Reading.”

The workshop is sponsored by the Office of Liturgy of the Archdiocese of New York and St. Joseph’s Seminary. The cost of the workshop is $30 and includes lunch and a copy of Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant by Dom Jacques Hourlier.
The workshop will be especially suited to those desirous of entering more deeply into the spiritual fruits offered by the chant, learning to pray along with the chants at Mass, as well as help others in their parishes do likewise.

To register for the workshop, visit this link

Confirmation of the First Oratory of St Philip Neri in the Caribbean

Good news for Oratory watchers, like myself. I have just received a note from the Provost, Fr Michael Palud, CO that the Oratory of Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica was formally canonically erected on the Feast of Christ the King. I have  of the first Oratory ever in the Caribbean.

The Delegate of the Apostolic See for the Oratorian Fathers, the Very Rev. Fr.Felix Selden, C.O. was present as well as the Procurator General of the Oratorian Confederation, the Very Rev. Fr. Mario Avilés, C.O.. The Mass was presided by the Archbishop of Kingston, the Most Rev. Charles Dufour, D.D. and concelebrated by diocesan and religious clergy. The two Emeriti Archbishops also concelebrated, Archbishops Donald Reece and Edgerton Clarke. It was a wonderful celebration. There were over 500 people present.

We wish them well and would like the community to know they are in our prayers. If anyone would like to donate, then I would encourage to contact the Provost, Fr. Michael Palud, at the following address and phone number:

Rev. Fr. Michael Palud, C.O.
Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri
Port Antonio Oratory
Saint Anthony's Parish
14 Queen Street Titchfield Hill,
Port Antonio Portland, JAMAICA
(876) 469-2542

EWTN Interview with Cardinal Burke and Bishop Rey - Sacra Liturgia - VIDEO

EWTN has just published a video report of the presentation of the English and Italian editions of the proceedings of Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome last month, which we reported about here. The report includes interviews with Bishop Dominique Rey and Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke on the Sacred Liturgy and upcoming Sacra Liturgia events.

The upcoming events of this initiative include:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Immaculate Conception 2014 Photopost

Our thanks to all those who sent in their photographs of liturgies celebrated on the Immaculate Conception. Scroll down and you can check out some beautiful and perfectly licit blue vestments from the Philippine Islands and Chile. Our next photopost will be of Rorate Masses, and Masses for Gaudete Sunday; please send your photos in by the 24th.

Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Morlino - Madison, Wisconsin

Beautiful Recordings from St John Cantius

If you are looking for Christmas gift ideas, here are two wonderful CD recordings from St John Cantius in Chicago. The recording of Handel's Messiah, made last year, is sung by Ensemble Cor et Vox directed by Rev Scott A. Haynes SJC. The Hallelujah Chorus is featured in the YouTube clip below. The other recording, also by the musicians of St John Cantius, features Mozart's Coronation Mass K317, Dixit Dominus and Magnificat. The second clip below features the Gloria of the Coronation Mass. Both recordings, and many others, are available from the St John Cantius online store.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Composer on Composer - Roman Hurko Reviews Paul Jernberg’s Mass of St Philip Neri

I am no expert on these things, but when listening to and singing Paul Jernberg’s music for the liturgy, especially his Mass of St Philip Neri, I am excited by a number of things. This music is accessible to the ear - in my opinion it has beauty and dignity appropriate to the Mass, so that, without compromising on traditional principles, I have noticed that even congregations who are not schooled in traditional chant and polyphony enjoy it.

It is also, I find, accessible for the singer - I would say that most parish choirs could sing this well (although not all perhaps as beautifully as the professional choir on the CD). I could also hear different influences in his style, especially liturgical music for the Eastern rite. Nevertheless it seems wholly appropriate for the Roman rite for which this is written.

I was curious therefore to know of the opinion of an established composer in the Eastern rite, Roman Hurko, so I asked him what he thought about it and, if he liked it, would he write a review of it for us.

Roman writes for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic liturgy. I have put a recording of his music at the bottom of this article along with some of Paul's music (both would make a good present for someone!) You can hear more at, and if you want to purchase his music on iTunes, then the link is here.

Roman wrote as follows:

‘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:

‘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 is on, 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!’

A couple of notes: when Mr Hurko refers to the  ‘polyphony’ of Paul's music I understand that he is using the word in the broadest sense, i.e.  ‘many sounds’, rather than the narrower meaning some will be used to, which refers to the form of music dominated by counterpoint as in for example, the polyphony of the High Renaissance. Some might use the word  ‘homophony’ to apply to Paul’s music instead.

Also, if anyone like me didn’t know, an appoggiatura is a non-harmonic tone that happens on a strong beat or strong emphasis in the melody and ultimately resolves into the main note. Paul uses these judiciously, but in way that adds greatly to the beauty of the overall piece. Without knowing the technical word, I could hear that he was momentarily  ‘stepping out’, so to speak, in order add to the sense of resolution when he steps back in again at the end of a phrase.

Below we have the Our Father from Paul Jernberg’s Mass, and below that Holy God from Roman Hurko’s Liturgy No.2

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