Sister Patricia St. John ’79, CSJ, Ph.D., recently celebrated 40 years as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, marking the occasion by releasing “Christmas Reflections,” a Christmas album of carols on piano, which was recorded with the help of the Saint Rose music industry program.
A release party was held on campus in the Interfaith Sanctuary on December 10. St. John, who is also a member of the Saint Rose Board of Trustees and an adjunct professor of music and music education at Teachers College, Columbia University, performed several selections from the album at the event.
The album is available as a hard copy on Amazon, as well as by digital download on such platforms as iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music. Those in the Capital Region can also purchase one directly from St. John by emailing email@example.com.
We talked to St. John about the project.
What inspired you to record this album?
I have wanted to do this recording for years. My sister has been asking me to record some Christmas carols for the last 20 years or so. I finally put my mind to it and got it done. I have been dealing with some health issues and trying to get back to a more disciplined schedule of practicing and playing. Once I decided to leave Carondelet Music Center, I have focused more on my own music-making. Between that and teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University, I keep myself musically engaged. The “Christmas Reflections” idea came to me as a way of being counter-cultural, a value we hold dear as Sisters of St. Joseph. I wanted to invite the listener into a space of quiet reflection, to step away from the frenzied, fractured world we live in, to find beauty in simplicity and elegance. That’s what this music does for me.
How did you select the songs for the album?
I keep my sight-reading skills up by perusing different collections. I really enjoyed playing through some of the Christmas jazz genre as well as some new-age selections. I was quite select in choosing arrangements that welcomed the listener into a deeper space than tinsel and colored lights. For example, in Bethlehem Night, I find a parallel between the Holy Family seeking refuge and the people of Ukraine seeking refuge, terrified immigrants looking for shelter. How does the Christmas story relate to us, at this time, and who are the refugees among us?
What does it mean to you to be celebrating your 40th Jubilee this year?
I have had such a wonderful life as a Sister of St. Joseph. I can hardly believe it’s been 40 years! I have had this love-affair with the Sisters of St. Joseph since elementary school. That was when I started my ministry as a Church Musician; I was 11 years old! I continued that ministry for 50 years, playing in several churches throughout the Capital Region. The Community has been a place for my gifts to flourish. I founded Carondelet Music Center in 1992; we had a 25-year run, gifting thousands of children and adults with a life-long love of music. In 2004, I received my doctorate in music and music education from Columbia University. I have been teaching there for the last 20 years. My work with early childhood music education has brought me around the world, presenting my research on who and how children are as natural music-makers. All of this ministry and professional activity has been encouraged by and supported through my Community. I can sincerely say I have embraced these 40 years with its peaks and valleys, its challenges and difficulties. I feel extremely blessed.
What was it like to collaborate with folks in the Saint Rose community on the recording process?
I absolutely loved returning to my alma mater, not only as a Sister of St. Joseph, but as a Saint Rose Board of Trustees member, too, and playing on that beautiful Steinway Model D in the Picotte Recital Hall. What a thrill! Kelly Bird, whom I have worked with for years in various settings, was my producer and Sean Wendell served as dedicated recording engineer. We are so lucky to have such professionals as part of our music industry program. This gifted duo was all I could have hoped for: patience, encouragement, knowledge, artistry, and friendship. They took care of every detail; all I had to do was play!