D No: 361
Text - Author or Scripture: John Wallace Suter (1890-1977)
Performing Forces: SATB, org, flute
Date Published: MS
Date of Composition: 1956
Notes: A play in five scenes by John Wallace Suter with incidental music. The Very Reverend John Wallace Suter, Dean of Washington in 1948–1950, was commissioned in 1956 by his successor, Dean Francis B. Sayre, Jr., to write a play for the high school children to perform in Advent—something to replace the annual Christmas pageants! Christmas hymns and carols sung in the third week of December, about the time the schools broke for the year-end recess, were deemed unacceptable in the solemn season of Advent by some clergy and lay people. Dean Sayre heeded them and set us to work, for I was to be the playwright-composer-producer of this project. I was honored to work with Dean Suter for I admired him greatly. We met at his home in Concord, New Hampshire (he was Chaplain of St. Paul’s School), and for three days we read together, identified and explored the principal themes of Advent, and then wrote them into a play portraying the lives of young people placed in Advent themes were powerful and realistic guides—resources for spiritual support. (As I write these words in 1993, I can’t but marvel how naïve the characters in that play would seem to the teenagers of today.) Nevertheless we tried—and we failed. The play had a passable but hardly enthusiastic performance and reception. It was to be expected considering the dissatisfaction in the schools at being denied their “family Christmas” together before leaving on the holiday recess. It was resented because there was no familiar Christmas music in it, and because it was, well, just “too preachy.” I wasn’t a playwright, but Jack Suter was a fine theologian and what I learned from him in the experience was worth all of it. There is not much incidental music and it is not inspired, but it is part of this record and so “standeth here among you.” Scene 1—Deck the Halls, chorus unaccompanied; Scene 4—He that seeketh and Everyone who hears my words, chorus unaccompanied; Scene 5—As it was in the days of Noah, chorus, piano and flute; Closing music—O come, O come Emmanuel sung by the men, with a descant of Lo, how a rose e’er blooming, sung by the women in three parts, accompanied with organ and flute. The following year we wrote and produced a new Christmas pageant that was triumphantly staged and happily received by our students and faculty.
Categorized as: Canticles & Liturgies
Tagged as: organ, pageant, SATB, solo instrument