Music Spotlight: Paul Jernberg

In order for sacred music to reach its full stature, composers and musicians need to exercise true artistry, in which knowledge, inspiration, and skill all play a vital role in creating works of dignity and beauty.

Paul Jernberg

You may not have noticed, but the past 30 years have seen the beginnings of a kind of renaissance in Catholic sacred music. It has been very slow and has largely gone unnoticed at the parish level, but it’s real and it’s bearing fruit.

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Music Spotlight: “Ave Maria” by Michael John Trotta

Today, our music spotlight comes courtesy of our excellent music director, Diana Corliss:

This weekend, we will be singing two beautiful pieces on Mother’s Day in honor of our Blessed Mother.

At the 10:00 am Mass, the choir will be singing a setting of the “Ave Maria” by Michael John Trotta.  It has a soaring and tender soprano solo that reminds me of the Blessed Mother hearing our prayers and interceding for us with her motherly love. 

We will also be singing the “Salve Regina” at the end of every Mass this weekend. 

Links to recorded versions of these pieces are included below. Better yet, come to the 10:00 Mass this weekend and hear our superb choir!

Gregorian Chant—a Brief History

One of our goals at St. Mark has been to gradually restore Gregorian chant to its rightful place in the sacred liturgy. This is specifically in response to the call of Vatican II: “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specifically suited to the Roman liturgy; therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (Sancrosanctum concilium, 116). 

One might be tempted to think that there was an unbroken tradition of Gregorian chant in the Roman liturgy right up until the 1960’s, when “everything changed.” But that’s not quite right. It turns out that Gregorian chant fell on hard times from the about the end of the Middle Ages up until the mid-19th century. It’s ironic that it was that other venerable liturgical musical form, polyphony, that worked to undermine the purity of chant and initiate its decline.

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A Music Meditation: the Presentation in the Temple

Set aside some time and try this meditation, based on the Gospel reading of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, accompanied by music.

  1. Read the Gospel for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
  2. Listen to this recording of the Nunc Dimittis (which is the prayer that Simeon says aloud, translated here) by Arvo Pärt. Read the Gospel aloud or silently over it. Imagine the temple. Imagine the darkness, the light, the smells and sounds.
  3. Imagine Simeon coming “in the Spirit in the temple” and taking the child Jesus into his arms while proclaiming this prayer and revelation.
  4. Imagine Mary and Joseph’s reactions and how they would ponder this and what was to come for their Son.

Remember to join us to celebrate this revelatory Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on Wednesday, Feb 2 at 7:00 pm. The choir will be singing another evocative setting of the Nunc Dimittis by Paul Smith, which you can also use for meditation.

Why Beauty Matters

If you have an hour to spare over the Thanksgiving holiday, consider watching this 2009 documentary, “Why Beauty Matters,” presented by British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton (1944–2020). With great intelligence and sensitivity, plus his trademark acerbic wit, Scruton lays out the case that beauty is an objective reality, and shows how the modernist deconstruction of art, architecture, and music continues to have a deleterious impact on us all. 

Roger Scruton was a treasure, and is sorely missed. RIP.

Why Beauty Matters

Why Do We Celebrate Mass the Way We Do?

A significant number of people have asked why we celebrate Mass the way we do, especially the ad orientem posture of the priests and the increasing use of Latin. We realize that Mass at St. Mark may not look like Mass at other parishes. To help both parishioners and visitors understand the reasons why our Masses look and sound the way they do, we created this brief 10-minute video.