Music from St. Stephen's School in Rome

Liner Notes

     This CD contains a variety of music ranging from Renaissance madrigals and Baroque opera through contemporary compositions. As such, it faithfully represents the musical repertoire - secular and religious, old and new - which the St. Stephen's School Chorus studies throughout the school year. In addition, this CD provides a new recording of my own work, A Christmas Cantata. Performances of portions of this work, most particularly "Mary's Lullaby", have become somewhat of a tradition over the years at St. Stephen's Christmas concerts, so I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity to re-present the Cantata in its original and complete form as composed in the summer of 1974. (Program notes about this work follow this preface.)
     Above all, however, this CD is a showcase for the "St. Stephen's School Chorus, 2000 - 2001". This is a talented group of young musicians who are equally at home in the team-play required for ensemble work or as individual soloists. In fact, in the course of this CD, you will hear 9 different vocal soloists! Additionally, several members of the chorus are also instrumental performers who have brought their musicianship and individual accomplishments to the service of the chorus. Three of these can be heard accompanying the Cantata with remarkable self-assurance, control and musicality. Individually and as a group, then, these young persons are passionate about music - about the emotional adventures music can create and about the unique pleasure which making music together can bring. Their enthusiasm is contagious - in rehearsal and in performance - and it has been my good fortune to have shared this with them. I am pleased that this CD will allow us to relive that adventure in the future and to share it with a wider audience as well.

A Christmas Cantata

     A Christmas Cantata is a work for four part youth chorus which was composed in 1974 in celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of St. Stephen's School in Rome and in honor of that School's founders, Rev. John O. Patterson and Donald L. Stewart. Composed using a vernacular musical style which is intended for the young musician, the music is performed with guitar and piano and/or organ accompaniment. The narrated text is taken from the Christmas story as recounted in the Gospel according to St. Luke while the texts of the songs were written by myself.
The Cantata was first performed on the 8th of December, 1974, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Rome. The second performance took place three days later in the St. Stephen's School Auditorium. A recording of that performance was issued by the school in 1975 as an "LP" record. In his preface written for that recording Father John O. Patterson, the Founding Headmaster of St. Stephen's School, had these words to say about the Cantata:

     "The celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of St. Stephen's School in Rome was marked by many and varied activities - each in its way an effort to show our gratitude for the loyalty, support and prayers of hundreds of people whose concern and interest made the past ten years possible. This recording is a particularly joyous part of that Anniversary program.
A Christmas Cantata was written by Richard Trythall, the director of St. Stephen's music program, specifically for the Anniversary celebration. As performed by the St. Stephen's School chorus at St. Paul's Within the Walls, the Episcopal Church in Rome, and at the School, it proved to be one of the most interesting and successful works of the Music Department. In these presentations, the late F. D. L. Stewart, co-founder and chairman of the English Department of St. Stephen's School, was the narrator. The many persons who knew and respected Donald Stewart will value this recording doubly.
As Founding Headmaster, I feel confident that I speak for the many alumni and friends of the School in expressing appreciation for the work of the Chorus and Mr. Trythall."

     It is most fitting, then, that this new recording of A Christmas Cantata - some 26 years later - follows a similar set of presentations: the performance on December 7, 2000 in the St. Stephen's School Auditorium and on December 17, 2000, at the Sunday morning service of St. Paul's Within the Walls. It is fitting also that the narration is now read by the chorus members themselves, each bringing his or her unique voice and diction to the gospel text and thereby adding the unmistakable imprint of a truly international school. I am sure that both Father Patterson and Donald Stewart would have been pleased to hear these performances and to learn from them that, in truth, the more St. Stephen's has changed, the more it has remained true to their founding vision.
     In closing I wish to express my appreciation to Philip Allen, present Headmaster of St. Stephen's School, for his invaluable support and encouragement of the Arts program at St. Stephen's and in particular for his help in making this CD a reality.

Richard Trythall

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