The Cathedral Choir rehearses for Holy Week services in the choir loft at Rosary Cathedral earlier this week. The choir will be key in a dramatic Wednesday service.
Paul Monachino directs the Cathedral Choir during a rehearsal in the choir loft for Holy Week services at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral.
In the middle of the liturgy, in the middle of Holy Week, with about 500 people in the pews, Toledo’s majestic Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral will go dark.
After the Cathedral Choir sings and chants a series of psalms and prayers, the church’s electric lights will gradually fade and the 14 candles on a large candelabrum called a hearse will be extinguished during Wednesday night’s Tenebrae service.
The last candle will be carried out of the sanctuary, casting the nave, from its ornate marble floor to its 96-foot high ceiling, in darkness.
“It is quite dramatic,” said Paul Monachino, director of music for the cathedral and director of liturgical music for the Toledo diocese.
Traditional Latin motets of Victoria and Ingegneri, psalms, and the Lamentations of Jeremiah are sung until the lights are gradually extinguished, “symbolizing the temporary triumph of the prince of darkness over the Light of the World,” he said.
A loud noise will then echo through the darkness, symbolizing the thunderclap heard when Jesus was crucified, and a candle will then be carried back into the sanctuary to represent the Resurrection, he said. The liturgy concludes with Gegorio Allegri’s Miserere mei, from Psalm 51.
The Tenebrae service is one of the highlights of Holy Week for many Toledoans.
“We get 400 to 500 people for the Tenebrae service,” Mr. Monachino said. “It’s definitely not just parishioners, and it’s not just Catholics. People come one time and then say they’re going to bring their family and neighbors next year. Even though it is a traditional Catholic service, it’s really nondenominational.”
The 14-voice Cathedral Choir sings from the triforium loft, an oak balcony built beneath a shell that projects natural sound throughout spacious Rosary Cathedral.
The architects of the cathedral, which took 16 years to build and was dedicated in 1940, designed the Romanesque building with acoustics in mind.
“It is a beautiful place and the acoustics are just wonderful — nearly perfect,” Mr. Monachino said.
The word tenebrae is Latin for “shadows” or “darkness,” and Tenebrae services have been held for centuries during the closing days of Holy Week.
The liturgy was derived from Matins and Lauds, part of the traditional ritual or prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours, but Tenebrae services have undergone slight revisions since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, Mr. Monachino said.
Choir rehearsals for the service “are not a huge amount of work” for veteran singers because Tenebrae is essentially the same from year to year, Mr. Monachino said, adding that he “switched a few things around” this year to make use of liturgical alternatives.
Mr. Monachino, director of liturgical music for the diocese since 2001, has a bachelor’s degree in music from Heidelberg University and a master’s degree in organ performance and church music from Indiana University.
Prior to serving in Toledo, he was music director for the Catholic cathedral in Raleigh, N.C., and also his home parish, St. Peter Church in Mansfield, Ohio.
The Tenebrae Service will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rosary Cathedral, 2535 Collingwood Blvd. Other Holy Week services there include a Chrism Mass at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m. Thursday, and Easter Vigil at 8:30 p.m. April 23.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.
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