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Br Paschal – liturgical music all around

By Kaelanne Jordan,


In my recent interviews, the focus revolved around Catholic composers and their Advent and Lenten hymns, with Br Paschal Jordan OSB taking centerstage in both articles. Intrigued to learn more, I reached out to him.

“There was always music in our home,” Br Paschal told The Catholic News. He is well known throughout the territories of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) as a liturgist and composer of liturgical music.

His mother was a teacher of piano and theory of music, having received her licentiates from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (LRSM) and from Trinity College, London (LTCL) while she was still in her late teens.

His father, a headmaster of a primary school had a good singing voice and held singing sessions in the school on Friday afternoons.

“So, my brother and I grew up with music all around us,” Br Paschal emphasised.

The rudiments of melody writing, he said, were learned both through listening to and imitating the styles of “the great composers”, namely Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven etc., as well as in exercises in creating answering phrases from theory of music.

And it was only later, in formal classes at the Institut de Musique Liturgique, that Br Paschal recognised how much he had “unconsciously” absorbed at home.

These skills, he said, came in “handy” when in the Mt St Benedict monastery, the monks began to change over from praying the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin to praying in the vernacular: an understanding of the modes of Gregorian Chant, melody-writing skills and the good grounding in poetry, honed in A Level English Literature classes, “came together in a happy marriage”.

Very gradually, syncopation and other rhythmic elements were introduced, to reflect the monastic insertion into Caribbean culture.

From September 1971 onward, the newly formed Music Committee worked hard revising and publishing the music for Holy Week; holding composition workshops all over T&T; showcasing the best of these compositions at Queen’s Hall in a Festival called ‘We for Jesus’, and publishing music supplements in The Catholic News.

Then there was the formation of the Antilles Episcopal Liturgical Commission in 1973 initiated and animated by then Bishop Anthony Dickson of Bridgetown and Kingstown, of which Fr Ildefons Schroots OSB and Bro Paschal were founding members.

From 1971, three monks from Mt St Benedict–Frs Schroots, Hildebrand Greene and Br Paschal were members of the Liturgical Commission of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. Through them, and together with Fr Brendan Ryan OP and Fr Cyril Ross, a campaign of liturgical education began.

Br Paschal mentioned the Liturgy Bulletin, a monthly periodical aimed at educating clergy, religious and laity, saw the light of day in January 1973. The Liturgical Ordo was prepared and printed at the Abbey.

The Seminary of St John Vianney and the Uganda Martyrs and the Abbey were designated authorised places of liturgical experimentation and, in 1977, in collaboration with the Seminary and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre, the Antilles School of Liturgy was born–a summer school of liturgical education and experience, which continues up to the present time (virtually in 2021, 2022 and 2023).



Because his mother was Methodist and father, Anglican-turned-Catholic, ecumenism was “in my blood so to speak”, said Br Paschal. Thus, it was “not surprising” that then Fr Kelvin Felix (now deceased Cardinal), “piggybacking on the work done in composition of Caribbean Liturgical music in the territories of the AEC, should invite me to be a music coordinator for the Southern Caribbean in the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC)”.

Invitation to membership of the Worship Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) followed later: initially at a WCC music meeting in 1988 in Crief Hills, Canada; then from 1997 in preparing the General Assembly held in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998. Br Paschal’s work with the WCC continued until 2002.

“Work with both the CCC and WCC was filled with deeply Christian sharing, deep respect for our various Christian traditions, and overflowing friendships for which I have nothing but gratitude,” said Br Paschal.

Questioned on what projects or compositions he is currently working on, and if there are any upcoming releases that the Church can look forward to, he replied that composition comes “more slowly now”, mainly confined to input in the revamping of the Responsorial Psalms for the Three-Year Liturgical Cycle.