Story by Julie Perine of Connect-Bridgeport
Director of Music and Liturgy at All Saints Roman Catholic Church, Stefano “Stephen” Pishner has a wide range of musical accomplishments under his belt. He served as band director at Notre Dame High School and chapel organist for West Virginia Wesleyan College. He is co-founder of the band “Amici” which, for decades, has been a staple element of the West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival in downtown Clarksburg and which has recording projects to its credit.
But for the first time, Pishner has released a liturgical CD comprised of all of his own melodies and arrangements performed via piano and voice.
Titled “Songs of Grace for the Soul,” the album contains 14 tracks; 13 of which originate from Old Testament psalms, offering a fresh contemporary musical approach to words from thousands of years ago. The last song, “Quiet My Soul” is a compilation of lyrics and music composed by Pishner after thinking about various scriptures.
“I hope that in listening to the CD, people might put the chaos of life on hold and enter into a kind of ‘retreat’ mode - at least for a few minutes,” he said. “... I hope they will be reminded of the constant presence of God, who inspired the writer of the psalms and continues to come to us, speak to us and inspire us - even when we don't want to listen or when we feel helpless, lost, broken and uncertain about life.”
Pishner hopes the CD might attract young people who are into various kinds of music.
“Composed in a contemporary style, it might provide some words of hope, mercy and an avenue of personal prayer, in perhaps a different way,” he said.
The pieces are special to Pishner and were penned some time ago, he
“These particular pieces have been piling up in a stack for a good amount of years. I was preparing to send them in for a publisher to review them and thought the publisher might like to hear the finished product, along with printed musical scores,” he said. “After having heard all the pieces recorded, I thought this could easily be an album.”
For many years, Pishner has been asked if he has recorded any of his worship music.
“So now, I can easily say, yes,” he said.
The recording has received good response so far, Pishner said. Within 24 hours of announcing the release on Facebook just before Easter, most of the first shipment of CDs has either been purchased or reserved.
Some orders, by request, are now being sent to musicians and friends in New York City, Las Vegas, Ohio, Georgia and Minnesota, as well as throughout West Virginia, he said.
For those who haven’t yet purchased or reserved their copy, there is an upcoming opportunity. Pishner will host a CD release 4-6 p.m. Sunday, April 23 - which happens to be his birthday - at Almost Heaven Desserts on Main Street in Bridgeport.
“A limited supply will be on hand, since they are going rather quickly,” he said. “There is also a Facebook page just for the CD itself. You can find it as ‘Songs of Grace for the Soul.’ For now, you can place an order on the Facebook site, by way of a private message.”
Pishner’s family and extended church family is also involved in the recording.
“My wife Belinda sings on the recording and my daughter Grazia created the artwork for the cover of the album,” he said. “Denise Roncone, who is the pastor of music at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Monongah, sings throughout the recording as well.”
The project was recorded in Wheeling at Jamie Peck Productions.
“Jamie is a talented musician, expert recording engineer, college educator in recording arts, as well as an Emmy Award Winner for his music in television and beyond,” Pishner said. “He is presently doing musical work for ABC Television Network and much more.”
Pishner started playing the organ at All Saints – and other area Catholic churches - while he was a sixth grade student at St. Mary’s Elementary School. He played for many events and received various musical awards at St. Mary’s and Notre Dame High School and after graduating in 1983, went on to become band director from 1985-1986. Pishner thereafter attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, serving as chapel organist through most of his college years. He graduated in 1990 with a degree in music education with an emphasis in pipe organ. He continued to serve WVWC through 1996.
In 1984, he had begun working part-time as music director at All Saints. In 1990, it became a full-time position, including additional responsibilities as director of liturgy. Also in 1984, Pishner was among originators of “Amici.” This summer, the band plans to prepare an upbeat pop Italian recording.
He also serves on the Music Consult Committee for the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and has served as organist for the Diocesan Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC - the tenth largest church in the world. He is also a published composer of liturgical music with G.I.A. Publications Inc. in Chicago.
Pishner has helped with and played for various other recordings including one with the students of Virginia Tech; a memorial recording produced after the 2007 mass shooting on campus. That recording was entitled "Voices of Hope.”