Christopher Melvyn Trussell
February 15, 1937 – November 11, 2010
February 15, 1937 – November 11, 2010
Christopher Melvyn Trussell was born on February 15, 1937, in Birmingham, England. He was the son of George and Mary (Cadman) Trussell. He attended the George Dixon Elementary and Aston Commercial Secondary schools in Birmingham. He became proficient as an organist and pianist, and was a member of the choir at the Church of Saint Germain in Birmingham.
In 1954 Christopher moved with his parents to South Africa where he was appointed Director of Music at the Church of Saint Cuthbert. While in South Africa, Christopher became an accomplished French horn player as a member of the Port Elizabeth Orchestra. He also conducted a performance of Handel’s Messiah, performed by members living in the ghettos of Port Elizabeth.
After living in South Africa for seven years, Christopher returned home to England and attended Trinity College of Music in London, studying composition, orchestration, and theatre. Having completed his studies, he was offered and accepted a position at Saint John’s School in Houston, TX, and thus came to the United States.
While living in Houston, Christopher became involved in writing television commercials, which led to a request to write of film score. Eventually Christopher moved to Hollywood to work on musical scores for the film industry. In 1967 he accepted the position of Director of Fine Arts at the Webb School, Claremont, CA. While there, he founded the Claremont Boys’ Choir, the Claremont Girls’ Choir, and many other groups still in existence today.
Christopher’s talent and hard work lead to many writing opportunities, including a film score for Warner Brothers and a score for a NASA documentary. The score he wrote for the movie Hot Potato was nominated for an Academy Award.
Christopher was received into the Catholic Church on December 24, 1983. After much soul searching and contemplation, in 1985 he moved to Spokane, WA, to follow a dream. There he pursued and simultaneously completed two master’s degrees at Gonzaga University: one in Religious Studies and the other in Spirituality. In his spare time he founded the Spokane Boys’ Choir and the Schola Cantorum. He also began work as a film and theatre critic.
In 1987 Christopher moved to Central Minnesota to pursue a Master of Divinity degree at Saint John’s University, Collegeville. On June 6, 1992, he was ordained to the presbyterate for the Diocese of Saint Cloud by Bishop Jerome Hanus, OSB, at the Cathedral of Saint Mary, Saint Cloud, MN. He celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving on June 7, 1992, at the Church of Saint Michael, Saint Cloud, MN.
Following his ordination, from 1992-1994 he served as associate pastor at the Church of Saint Joseph, Waite Park, MN. Also beginning in 1992, he joined the faculty at Cathedral High School (CHS), Saint Cloud, MN, where he served as a religion teacher and directed the Theatre Department. Additionally, he assisted in the diocesan vocation office and was a featured writer for the diocesan newspaper, the Saint Cloud Visitor.
During his tenure at CHS, Christopher directed over 150 productions, beginning with a production of The Music Man, which transformed the Theatre Department. He developed specialized areas of theatre, including: The CHS Repertory Players; Coffee House Productions; Mondays at Seven; and more. He established classes in all areas of “theatrical craft” that are now a regular part of the curriculum at CHS. Students have the opportunity to lean the technical aspects of theatre, including: lighting, sound, stage management, and costuming. A One-Act Play Festival, showcasing student’s own creations, was also developed. Due to his declining health, Christopher retired from CHS in 2009. His dedication, vision, leadership, and drive ignited a fire that burns brightly today in the CHS Theatre Department, and provides the foundation to assure that his legacy will continue into the future.
As a priest, Christopher was a passionate preacher and loved the liturgy. Standing before an assembly and presiding at the Eucharist came naturally for him, though he was cautious never to cross the boundaries and turn the liturgy into a drama. For over a decade he was part of the Campus Ministry Team at the College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, MN. He also formed and directed the Diocesan Schola that sang for various diocesan liturgies. He was a gifted organist and took great pleasure in serving as accompanist at the annual diocesan clergy conference, where he and a couple of his brother priests would lead the music for the three-day gathering.
Always looking to the next project, Christopher founded The Cathedral Festival of the Arts, which for five years brought tremendous national performers to the Saint Cloud community. This weeks-long celebration of the arts took place in early September, surrounding the feast of Saint Cloud, and included performances by the James Sewell Ballet, the Tokyo String Quartet, as well as dramatic performances including: T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral; A Man For All Seasons; Galileo; and more. He also created and composed an original musical entitled Scrooge, based on the Dickens novel.
While Parkinson’s disease, time, a stroke, age, and hard work may have slowed him down, Christopher’s enthusiasm, positive energy, spirituality, and a sense of the next project kept him motivated. His presence in our community made it possible for thousands of students and residents to participate in theatre, music, and art. In 2009 Christopher was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award presented by the Paramount Theatre and Visual Art Center, Saint Cloud, MN.
Christopher Melvyn Trussell died on November 11, 2010. He was preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his son, Gavin Trussell, and two grandchildren, Alexander and Abigail, who reside in Lewis Center, Ohio. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on November 17, 2010, at the Cathedral of Saint Mary, Saint Cloud, MN, Bishop John F. Kinney, presider.